Disclaimer: This is a personal blog posting and is not written in my professional capacity.
Well, the press seem to be having a field-day with the fact that we have announced that we are slipping release dates for some big software. Many people are asserting that we are intentionally moving dates so that we do not have to give the software to customers with Software Assurance contracts (customers who pay more and in exchange get free upgrades for a period of time). I have to throw in some comments on this from the inside of the company.
Suggesting that MS is slipping dates as to intentionally avoid giving software to Software Assurance customers is nuts. From a purely numerical perspective, I’ll bet we make more selling the software to customers without SA agreements than we do on those agreements, so numerically it is better for us to release ASAP. The bigger issue is the constant insinuation that we set down at the beginning of each and every day and try to come up with a way to hurt our customers. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone I know here tries their best to do what they can for the customer. I know a lot of people who work all day and then answer newsgroup questions at night. I constantly hear of improvements that came from customer suggestions. I have sat through many meetings where we look at crash report logs and what is being done to fix the crashing software. For that example, the crash data is anonymous and from everywhere. It is not a major corporate customer threatening to leave if we don’t fix it, but rather us fixing things proactively because we know it is causing trouble for all our customers, particularly the people sitting at home without corporate help desks.
When Microsoft slips a date, it is because we want to release the software customers want. We have hundreds of millions of customers who all use their software differently and we have to do the best job we can for everyone. We have to take the time to make sure that new features are what the customers need, that they work properly, that they are secure, that they are stable, and that they do not conflict with other features. I have seen people in multi-hour arguments over what feature will help customers the most. I have seen employees staying at work into the late hours of the night solving customer problems. I have seen people cry when something they thought was important had to be cut from a product to make a schedule.
Many of us came to Microsoft because we knew that the work we did here would change the world. Sometimes what we do may seem strange or problematic, but it is usually because we are trying to do the best thing we can with our requirements and constraints, not because we are vicious. All that said, I do think we need to consider rethinking how we handle Software Assurance contracts. Those are some of our best customers who we should do right by. However, I have no doubt that the people who handle those contracts are considering those issues at this moment.