So Ed Bott has taken a stance on Microsoft's decision to ignore feedback and just plow ahead with whatever vision for Windows 7 they came up a year ago--you know, however they did it. Here's the word:
Last week my colleague Mary Jo Foley reported on rumblings of discontent from the invitation-only Windows 7 technical beta test community ... This was all in response to another epic post on the Engineering Windows 7 blog by Steven Sinofsky, who tried to explain how the feedback process worked. The whole thing is worth reading, although at 4700+ words I’m afraid most people will just skim it.
Frankly, I’m having a hard time working up any level of sympathy for those doing the complaining, partly because I heartily approve of the way Windows 7 development is going right now and partly because I have seen the feedback process up close and personal. Microsoft is getting a bad rap from a group of people who are mourning the reality that they’re no longer being treated as privileged elites.
Two things here.
1. My complaints about the Windows 7 Beta have nothing to do with Microsoft's treatment of anyone, including myself. I'm just one person. My fear is that the company made its decisions about Windows 7 sometime last year, or the year before, and is now simply plowing through on its strategy, come hell or high water. It's got kind of a "W" ring to it, when you think about it.
2. Regarding the technical beta, I've always found beta testers to be largely disposable, and most of them are indeed useless. But that's not the point. Microsoft betas have usually been marked by a meaningful back and forth communication. Microsoft presents some features, gets feedback, and responds accordingly. This time around, Microsoft presents the nearly finished product, gets feedback, and then fixes bugs but makes only very small functional changes because, heck, they froze the feature set a long time ago.
In Ed's opinion, what Microsoft is doing is just fine, thank you very much, because he likes how Windows 7 is turning out. Hey, so do I. What I'm worried about is a much broader issue, that the Windows team is becoming an Apple-like secretive Iron Wall behind which decisions are made in secret. Say what you will about Jim Allchin, but I miss the transparency. And I really do feel that there is a happy middle ground between the Windows team of 2005 (open, freewheeling, and, yes, prone to mistakes) and the one of today (iron-like secrecy, Soviet-style refusal to bend to anyone else's will, denial that anything can or will go wrong because they will simply not over-promise). There just is.
But I'm sure Microsoft will be happy to have Ed on their side on this on. The growing cacophony of people opposed to this regime's closed-lip policies was getting deafening, I'm sure.
I do agree with Ed that further Windows 7 betas are not needed. Living within the confines of Windows 7 development, the product is well on its way to completion. And let's not lose sight of one simple fact. Windows 7 is great, overall. It really is. I just don't agree that the end justifies the means. And I'd really like to see some changes to the way things are done going forward. Not for me. Obviously. For Windows.
UPDATE: With an eye towards telling the whole story here, I should note that Ed has followed all this up with another post, this time to his Windows Expertise blog. I don't have much to add, other than to say that this is certainly not anything personal (on either end). I agree that my post title here is inflammatory. But I feel strongly about this topic, so apologies if it offended. As he notes, we'll be seeing each other this week. I'm looking forward to it: I like and respect Ed quite a bit.