Let me count the ways…

Scoble is on a crusade to get people to tell him how and why Microsoft Sucks. Surely a noble endeavor? Or an inhuman marketing ploy?

There’s your first problem right there: no matter what Microsoft does, no matter how excellent their products are, there will still be people out there who will say categorically that ‘Microsoft Sucks!’ ‘Why?’ I ask them? ‘I dunno, they just… they do… they… they just suck alright!?’ Now I’m not a Microsoft apologist by any means. I hate the fact that I would love to use Mac at work because I love the idea of a brilliant, well supported UI with a huge catalogue of software running on top of a great OS, and yet I’m forced to use a Microsoft OS on a IBM PC, because Microsoft’s huge monopoly precludes anything else being used in a corporate environment. I’m forced to put up with popup windows and attempts to install spyware because the corporate standard desktop only allows IE6.

Having said that, I can also admit that Microsoft makes some excellent products. I mean how could they not, with the sheer weight of money and people they have? Take XBox Live!. Online gaming distilled to its very essence. I think people have only recently realised just how good Live! is after the debacle that was EA’s bastardised, castrated version of Live! that shipped with Burnout3. You only realise how good something is when it is taken away from you.

Perhaps what is needed is a new release culture at Microsoft. I don’t doubt that there are some truly excellent innovations buried deep within Microsoft that won’t see the light of day until some future, pre-determined release date. Perhaps Microsoft should allow their teams to act a bit more independently and autonomously. If, for example, the IE team come up with an excellent popup blocker (a la XP SP2), or the Office team develop some uber-cool Outlook-to-Media-Player sync tool, then let them release it. Let the hackers and power-users download the latest patches. The people that will search for, download, and install the latest, bleeding-edge patches, are the very same people that will decide if those features are a Good Thing(TM), and also the same people that will advocate (for free!) the use of these features on their blogs.

Instead, the vocal techies are made to wait in line with everyone else, until all of those great features are bundled into some huge monolithic release (like XP SP2), and spend the intervening time bitching about the existing problems, or the distribution methods, or Scoble, or Microsoft’s monopoly. Anything but the improvements themselves.

Take a leaf out of the open source book. Release pre-alpha stuff. Release ‘nightly’ and ‘stable’ builds. I’m sure there are enough lawyers at Microsoft to write up a EULA that says basically: ‘use this stuff at your own risk – it is not release-ready code – if it breaks your computer, deletes all your data, and rapes your cat, we are not responsible’. Put that all over the alpha.microsoft.com site, and then let the hackers eat cake! You’ll learn buckets, garner a new, enthusiastic testing base, and perhaps discover that there are features that marketing says are useless, but the users love.

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