Microsoft’s Typical Excuse: We’ll Make it Good Next Year!

November 19th, 2009

All right, this is becoming familiar. Most of you have seen those benchmarks that indicate that Internet Explorer 8 performs worse in almost every respect when compared to most recent browsers. Even Opera, which has of late lagged in performance, fares better, and IE8 is also decidedly inferior when it comes to passing the infamous Acid3 test, a rigorous benchmark that assesses the ability to accurately render sites.

So along comes a claim from Microsoft that we shouldn’t fret. IE9, due to arrive at some indefinite time in the future, will close the performance gap. Despite poo-pooing the idea, Microsoft is now admitting that they have found a way to boost JavaScript speeds, and you’ll see the results in the next version of Internet Explorer.

Now as an early reality check, consider that Microsoft’s Acid3 score is presently 24, but they hope to improve that to 32 with early IE9 builds. At the same time, Chrome, Opera and Safari all rate at a perfect 100, whereas the beta version of Firefox 3.6 scores 92.

When it comes to Microsoft’s excuses, haven’t you heard this nonsense before?

Welcome to the famous Microsoft broken record. They sing the same tune again and again. They announce the latest and greatest version of a product, extolling all of its real or imagined features. The tech writers who aren’t lining up for freebies from Microsoft — or hoping for some — reveal that the new product or service is actually inferior to the competition and fails to do what was promised. Microsoft, in turn, grudgingly admits to some of the shortcomings but says, no matter, they’ll get it right next time.

Have you heard of Windows Mobile 6.5? Well, maybe not. This “interim” release has gotten lukewarm receptions from the critics, and is an also-ran in the mobile marketplace. Indeed wireless handset makers are quickly dumping Windows Mobile and embracing other operating systems, such as Google’s Android.

Microsoft, in its defense, says that version 7 will be the be all and end all of smartphone systems, and that it’ll arrive some time next year. So just be patient, and you’ll have something that will surely suck less. Of course that assumes that Windows Mobile 7 won’t arrive with Microsoft assuring us that version 7.5 or 8 will be the ultimate edition.

As far as I’m concerned, it’s only a matter of time before Microsoft offers the same excuse about Windows 7, before they give it a shave and a haircut, play another game of interface musical chairs, including a new name. You don’t believe me? So how did Vista become 7 in the first place?

I find it incredible that people fall for this bait and switch scam over and over again. How many times can Microsoft get away with their lame excuses for building mediocre products before tech writers really take notice and call them on their abject failures to demonstrate true creativity?

Now this is not to say that Apple isn’t above promising a better tomorrow with an inferior product. The original version of Mac OS X was barely usable. Indeed, I remember returning to Mac OS 9 to get real work done, and only switched back to OS X to write articles and books on the subject.

Indeed, Steve Jobs admitted, during the rollout presentation to the media, that version 10.0 was designed strictly for beta testers and early adopters and that it was missing critical features, such as CD/DVD burning. He assured everyone that these shortcomings would be addressed in time.

When 10.1 arrived, restoring features and improving performance, Apple gave the upgrade CDs away for those who picked up the packs from dealers. They charged “shipping and handling” if you didn’t have a nearby dealer or just wanted the convenience of having it sent directly to your home or office. And, no, I won’t get into the controversy that arose over what many regarded as an excessive service fee for something that should have been free regardless of how you acquired it.

To my way of thinking, Mac OS 10.3, alias Panther, was the first version to truly come into its own, and its gotten better ever since. That said, I realize that some of you feel Apple reached the pinnacle of interface design and features with the original Classic Mac OS, and, 10 years after Mac OS 9’s development wound down, you’re still hoping for some of its lost features to return.

You just know that the original iPhone OS was also lacking in core capabilities, such as cut, copy and paste, which we took for granted years ago when the first Macs arrived. It seems incredible that you had to wait two years for version 3.0 to arrive and deliver a useful version optimized for a handheld computer. Why did it take so long to begin with?

As I said yesterday, Apple resides in its own glass house, and they do make mistakes, some that seem awfully dumb on the surface, but they also seem better able to fix the things that go wrong. They no longer need to make excuses or tell us to wait till next year, and quite often Apple exceeds our expectations. That’s a concept Microsoft still fails to comprehend.

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5 Responses to “Microsoft’s Typical Excuse: We’ll Make it Good Next Year!”

  1. DaveD says:

    Back in the days, I was using CP/M. Having gotten another 5 1/4″ floppy drive which became my “B” unit, copying between two floppies was no longer a chore. I had bought a few Microsoft software products such as an 8080 assembler, a BDS C compiler, etc. Microsoft’s main business was in making computer language compilers. A few years later working on an IBM PC running MS-DOS. I was quite surprised that CP/M and MS-DOS funtioned and behaved identical, right down to the floppy drive letters. What I did not see was that this was their ticket to new revenue avenues. Why do the hard work of compiler production when one can just buy another work that is a copy of an original work.

    If one followed this history of Internet Explorer, the browser came from another company. Microsoft used this to effectively chopped Netscape at the knees. By giving a crappy, copy-cat browser away, Netscape lost their revenues of $50 per copy. Netscape got netscaped.

    As they say, “What goes around, comes around.” I don’t know why Microsoft is so focused on Apple when Google is getting closer and closer. As Microsoft completes an agreement with Yahoo! (imho, an albatross) for the web search, Google is getting very close to Microsoft’s knees.

  2. Dan Decekr says:

    If MS wants to stand a chance, they should get on board the WebKit train. Instant 100% Acid3. Then all they have to do is focus on UI/UX and bypass the guts of the browser, where they are obviously deficient.

  3. Kaleberg says:

    Getting a software release out always involves trade offs. It is generally impossible to produce a release that includes everything that one would like to see in it. New ideas and new features are always plentiful, but software that doesn’t ship doesn’t do anyone any good. The trick is to produce a good enough version and actually get it out the door. Of course, it is hard to say what “good enough” is. These days Apple is willing to make the cut low. They shipped OS X 10.0 which was just barely usable. (It was my niece’s first machine, and she never noticed anything missing. She loved it, and it crashed so much less often than Classic that I could seem a good tech support uncle.) They shipped the iPhone without downloadable applications or even cut and paste. But you’ll notice that they shipped, and the products were accepted. Then they shipped a better version and a better version after that.

    Back in the 90s Apple was approaching paralysis. They had so many good ideas of where they had to go that they really couldn’t go anywhere. There was even a time when they couldn’t ship laptop hardware, let alone new software. I think they learned from this. At a certain point one has to ship something, even if it isn’t perfect. Microsoft is now a lot like Apple back then. After XP, they just couldn’t ship anything. If you walked down the halls of Microsoft, you could walk by great idea after great system after great feature, but there was no pathway for that to reach your desktop. For all of Vista’s flaws, they actually managed to ship something. Who knows? With Vista, maybe they have reached OS 10.1, and in five years, they’ll be shipping decent software again.

  4. dfs says:

    Dan Deckr suggests that MS needs to get aboard the WebKit train. Good idea, but this has major corporate implications. MS has always wanted to enforce its own Web standards supported by its own idiosyncratic code so that sites created its way would only display properly with IE (if you want to see what this involves, create a document in Word, so a Save as HTML command, and examine the resulting code it creates, which is total crap). By now it’s pretty obvious to everybody in the world, except maybe MS itself, that this is a failed strategy. Switching to WebKit underpinnings would entail a corporate admission that this is true, and so would involve MS swallowing its corporate pride. I doubt it can do it. B. t. w., Apple isn’t entirely innocent in this respect either. Its current version of Pages doesn’t allow Save as HTM at all. Whenever I need to convert a word processing file to a html one I use NeoOffice

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