Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

January 2005 - Posts

  • OT: Random Site-Related Run-In

    So I was calling around tonight, getting ready for my trip to San Francisco as a speaker for VSLive in February. Fawcette is putting me up at the Palomar, which I'm really excited about. Anyways, I called up to the Reservation desk to check on some info, and when the agent asked for my company name, he said it sounded familiar. He asked what we do, and I told him we sell software components for Microsoft's .NET Framework. He said he'd seen us somewhere else, and I told him “We also run a site about the next version of Windows.” He said “Oh yeah, you guys run that site about Longhorn, huh? Right on.”

    Forgive me for geeking out, but that's the first time someone in a non-techie situation knew who we were :). So, Really Cool Hotel Palomar Reservation Agent Guy (didn't catch your name... sorry)... just wanted to say thanks for the help.

  • Avalon: Blurring the Lines in User Experience

    No long post today, just a thought... Avalon is Microsoft's new desktop rendering system. It is reasonable to assume that Microsoft-developed applications targeting Longhorn will use this system. So, the question becomes... what will be the difference between Oulook on the desktop and Outlook Web Access on the web? Why would you even need a desktop version, when a XAML version served up from the web would have the exact same capabilities?

  • Avalon CTP Available To Public!

    Filed under:
    Tim Sneath tells us that Microsoft has made the Avalon November Community Technology Preview available to everyone, not just MSDN subscribers. This version runs on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003, and is also relatively stable. So, now's your chance to start playing with the way to build apps for the next decade.
  • An Open Letter To Microsoft

    Dear Microsoft,

    I recently read an interview at with Bob Muglia about the removal of WinFS from Longhorn Client and Server. In that article, he said:

    "Our mistake, frankly--and it was a mistake--was to go out and talk about it before we really had clarity as to how we would be able to deliver it and all the complexities there."

    As a Microsoft MVP, an avid early adopter, and a big fan of many of the things that you do as a company, I have to say that I was pretty shocked by that statement. In the past 18 months, you've made tremendous strides in opening up the company to the outside world. Openness fosters trust in the marketplace, and it's pretty obvious that you are the market leader when it comes to technology. Your leadership in corporate transparency has the potential to change the face of American business, the effects of which we are just barely beginning to see.

    The "problem" with transparency, at least from a corporate management standpoint, is that miscalculations that would normally go unnoticed are vastly magnified, mostly by your detractors. Your business practices have gotten you in trouble with the court of public opinion, and as the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Your PR job is complicated even more by the fact that many of the people that just flat out hate you are free-love hippie nutjobs that don't understand that free-market economies are the best base for a society, given the limitations of human nature. They still think that communism/socialism could work, and that all commodities should be free, because they are too expensive. They try to sell people on the smoke-and-mirrors idea that their software is free, but the costs are far greater. They forgot the adage, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

    But I digress. The easiest way to build trust with people is to show them what you're working on. The only way you can know if you're doing something right is if you get it in lots of people's hands, and let them work with it. That's why PDC 2003 was such a great thing. It was something you had never done before... showed everyone what you were thinking and what you wanted to do. It got outside the "Echo Chamber" and said "hey, you guys use our stuff.... what do You think we should do?"

    And it was great. You got some great feedback from your customers. They started using some things, and they came back with "Ok, Avalon looks really cool, but we need it on XP." You got exactly what you were looking for, even if it wasn't what you thought you wanted.

    Regarding WinFS, you found out that it wasn't as ready as you thought it was. It was a total pain in the ass to build anything decent. Performance was still terrible. The schema system needed more work. The APIs needed refactoring. It just needs to be easier. But you wouldn't have known any of this if you hadn't taken that chance.

    The thing is, you can't spend too much time focusing on your detractors. Sure, many of them have some valid points, but Microsoft could eradicate cancer and broker peace in the Middle East, and there are still going to be people out there with big mouths and small brains that hate you.

    The bottom line is, the experiment worked. You're going to have a better v1.0 product because you took a huge risk. You can't just run back and say "Well, lots of people complained about it, so we should go back to the way things were and not talk about it until we launch it." That's not gonna fly anymore. Especially with open source right around the corner.

    Learn from and You have the best developer community on the planet. I'm sure lots of Java people will get angry about that statement. I don't care. We spend more time working on our product than trying to figure out how to bash the other guy. The same isn't true on the other side of the fence.

    Part of the reason I like Visual Studio 2005 so much is that it has features and fixes I suggested. Just think if you could replicate that feeling with your operating system. Make it so that computers aren't so frustrating... and still be able to open it up under the hood for the power users. The Giant Spyware acquisition was a great start. Keep going. Keep talking about what you're doing. Keep giving us bits to beat the hell out of. Listen to us when we tell you what sucks and what doesn't.

    Please don't listen to your PR people when they tell you criticism is bad, and secrets are good. They are afraid, and they are wrong. You already let the genie out of the bag. Please don't try to cram him back in.

    Hoping you continue the march to transparency,

    Robert W. McLaws
    Microsoft MVP & Windows Fan

    PS: We want another Longhorn build before the beta! If you don't know how to pull it off... talk to the VS2005 teams.