In a statement that is unlikely to send shock waves through the IT industry, Microsoft announced that its Office 2007 product wouldn’t be available until, well, 2007 – which doesn’t seem such a bad thing. However, Microsoft’s executives could well be slapping themselves on the back for deciding not to call the new suite after the year it was initially intended to be released.
Of more concern is the rumor that Vista might also be delayed to allow for a joint release, and obfuscate problems with the Vista code by blaming the less important Office product. The impact of delayed releases is well known, especially for those customers that are signed up with volume licenses that give them ‘free’ updates for a period of three years – the same problem that bedeviled SQL Server, when Microsoft stated it would look at each case individually.
The reason for the delay in Office 2007 was put out in a company statement that said: Based on internal testing and the beta 2 feedback around product performance, we are revising our development schedule to deliver the 2007 system release by the end of year 2006, with broad general availability in early 2007
Note the use of the phrase early 2007 – which could be before the half year, when technically it would be late 2007; so that gives them nearly a full year to address the undefined performance problems.
The really sad thing about all this is the lack of surprise in the announcement – perhaps Microsoft delivering a product on time will one day make world news headlines. These delays also have an effect on people’s belief in software. Although Microsoft is making all the right noises about ensuring that the software comes up to its high standards, the truth is that people (especially cynical people) see it less about high standards and more about ‘whoops, we’re having real problems getting this software to work.’
In a (slightly) related way, Microsoft is still making efforts to take on the iTunes/iPod market with its beta release of Windows Media Player 11, which has some limitations (detailed quite openly and honestly) with some third-party partners (Sky by Broadband being a notable name) not supported in or supported by the new player. A minor quibble, maybe, but of more concern is the fact that Media Player 11 is also quite flaky (that is a deeply technical term) when it comes to reading MP3 tags – or maybe that is just a problem when they have been created by iTunes.
Now the iTunes Library is not the perfect example of XML, but at least it recognizes the difference between the artist and album tag (something Media Player 11 appears to have problems with). While running beta software has its inherent problems and limitations, it seems Microsoft is beginning to really struggle with its code base. The delays to Vista and Office 2007, Media Player 11 that doesn’t even come close to iTunes (which isn’t the greatest piece of software in the world – having separate libraries would go a long way to addressing that), and the beta of IE7 having a propensity to fall over would seem to indicate some deep-seated issues.
Source: OpinionWire by Butler Group (www.butlergroup.com)