It continues to elude the top brass at Microsoft that the world has changed and Windows 7 manager Steven Sinofsky is doing his best to ensure that the next offering of their desktop operating system will be just as big of a commercial flop as the version that preceded it. In an interview with Ina Fried of CNET’s Crave blog posted yesterday, Sinofsky was asked some very broad questions about the next version of Windows and basically refused to elaborate on anything other than the fact that it will be the successor to Vista. He then goes on to mention that a classic closed-doors development model is not outdated for the production of software.
In the age of Web 2.0 and agile software development this is quite possibly the stupidest thing someone could say, and further proof that Microsoft is on an express train to irrelevance. Rule #1 of business is “give the customer what they want”, and the gurus in Redmond haven’t learned yet that it might be beneficial to ask. Imagine all of the often complained about “features” present in Vista that might have been refined to a level of acceptability or removed if the Windows team had set up something like Dell’s Ideastorm? Windows users would be able to gripe about things that they don’t like, and ask for things that Microsoft committee groupthink hasn’t imagined – so that by the time the product actually ships… people might actually want to buy it! This is underscored by the philosophies of agile development where you are constantly in contact with your customer and making incremental refinements towards exactly what the customer wants.
Also one might wonder what point there is to all the secrecy, when Microsoft holds a defacto monopoly on desktop operating systems – it’s not like IBM is waiting in the wings to unleash OS/3 and steal their feature set, offering it on a line of PC’s that they don’t even make anymore. This point is underscored when the Linux and Mac developers have already branched off in entirely different directions and would probably rather die than admit imitating anything that came from Windows.
Amazon, Google, Dell and countless others have harnessed the wisdom of crowds to refine their business models and it seems that Microsoft thinks that their insulated community knows best, and would rather pretend that its still the 80’s where market will love anything that they send to production. Much of the techworld as of late has become defined by transparency, and one must wonder if the lack of discussion on Windows 7 specifics is because of the lack of innovation, or insecurity regarding their ability to deliver on anything they promise. (WinFS, anyone?) With a release date still years away, there’s still plenty of time for the development team to throw together a webapp that would take less than a day to write, and that will save millions of users all over the planet from Windows ME v2.0. I wouldn’t hold your breath though.