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December 12, 2004

Shipping WinFS

Here's an article about WinFS delays, which Scoble linked to, and then followed up with typical Microsoft defense, which is that shipping complex software is hard, and we have this installed base, and we have to worry about security...or as Artie Lange would summarize it, Wah wah wah.

Those are all true, but it's not like they suddenly became true. Even security was on the radar long enough ago that the WinFS team would have had it in mind when planning WinFS. So the issue is not that WinFS is taking a long time; it's that Microsoft sat down, considered what it had to do architect, spec, design, write, test, evangelize, market, etc. WinFS, made a top-down schedule, a bottoms-up schedule, a sideways schedule -- and that schedule was COMPLETELY WRONG. Not like it was off by 10%. It was off by somewhere north of 100%. And that's just really really bad. For one thing it made us go out at the PDC and trumpet WinFS and then have to announce nine months later that it wasn't going to ship as planned, or anywhere near as planned. Which in turn leads customers to lose faith in Microsoft's ability to plan software deliverables, which makes it very hard to customers to plan their technology spending (at least if it involves Microsoft).

The fact is that Microsoft went through a period where it completely lost the ability to predict how long systems software would take to develop. My theory is that all the "taxes" that were added to developers -- more design specs, more security analysis, more code reviews, etc. -- meant that experience gained shipping the current generation of software simply had no relevance when planning the next generation. People might think, "Well this would have taken me one year before, so now with the extra stuff it will take eighteen months" -- and in reality the right answer might have been two years or four years or who knows. The company did not have a handle on the expected productivity of its employees.

Microsoft may be emerging from this period and regaining its abililty to make schedules, but in the "dark ages" it produced the original schedule for the Longhorn wave, and held the PDC last fall where it talked about all those things, and it's still dealing with the effects of that.

Posted by AdamBa at December 12, 2004 04:42 PM

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