Dear Mr. Ballmer,
Let me start by saying that I’ve admired your company since I was 10 years old. I think what Microsoft does for the industry, and the world, is amazing. I think Windows is, and has always been, the best operating system on the market.
However, I have to take issue with your recent statement that Vista beta testers failed you. The testers did not fail you sir, your development and beta processes did. Your feedback mechanism is notorious for closing bugs entered within a matter of hours. This would normally be an amazing thing, if they were actually getting fixed; however most were closed “No Repro” without contact from the person trying to repro, or worse: “By Design, Won’t Fix” (which is like a giant slap in the face).
In addition, many beta testers sounded very public warnings that Vista wasn’t ready. In fact, my post on the matter (the year my Windows MVP wasn’t renewed, BTW) gave specific causes for alarm, along with specific, actionable options for adding another Beta to the cycle. This post garnered half a million page views (my single most-viewed piece EVER) and my opinion was echoed by many major tech heavy-hitters, including Scoble, Ed Bott, Chris Pirillo, Marc Orchant, Dwight Silverman, Paul Thurrott (though he took several potshots at me in the process) and others.
Fortunately for you, Steven Sinofsky & crew have done a fantastic job cleaning house on the engineering side. Adding internal testing to the planning mix had a drastic positive effect on the quality of the product cycle, and showed that the Windows Team truly does respect the term “Release Candidate”. The only complaint that I have about the Windows 7 Beta engineering process is that there were too few builds released to testers to validate the work that was going on.
However, many issues with the tester feedback loop still remain. The general feeling from the tester community is that Microsoft only likes us when our feedback is positive, and couldn't care less otherwise. And that drives an animosity that will not be beneficial to Windows (or Microsoft as a whole) in the long-term. My personal opinion is that Scott Guthrie still runs the best teams at Microsoft, and his community engagement methodology is one that every Microsoft team should strive to emulate.
So, with all due respect, Mr. Ballmer, before you go insinuating that beta testers didn’t do their jobs with Vista, maybe you should look into how your own people kept you insulated from the screaming we were all doing about how bad Vista was. We tried to warn you, it’s not our fault the message was not relayed to your bubble.
Early Windows “Longhorn” enthusiast and satisfied Windows 7 customer