Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

Followup to My Windows Media Center TV Pack Post

I started working on the rant I posted last night almost two weeks ago, when Microsoft released the bits and made an internal announcement about distribution plans. Since then, lots of things have happened, so just so that I’m 100% clear, that post was not directed at anyone on the WMC team, as they did a fantastic job shipping a great release which tackles a lot of issues that people have been having. It was targeted at the morons at the top echelons of the eHome division that make the “strategic” decisions.

Since Microsoft posted on the forum over at TheGreenButton (which was just acquired by Microsoft, so congrats guys!) on Friday, there have been nearly 200 replies. Some of those replies come from Microsoft employees, most prominently by Jeff Tucker. From his posts, I’ve been able to glean the following information:

  1. My assertion that the WMC team is under-resourced is spot-on. WMC is a small team with few resources, even though they arguably own one of the most compelling features of Vista.
  2. The WMC team considers this a full-fledged release, and is just as pissed about this decision as we are.
  3. Someone posted the final bits to TheGreenButton. (Won’t link to them, but you can find them on your own)
  4. Microsoft, in its desire not to completely alienate the community they just acquired, are not pulling the bits, or censoring the posts in any way.
  5. There is a possibility that some of the Guide improvements delivered in the TV Pack will make their way into a future Vista SP1 update.
  6. The next release of Windows Media Center will ship inside Windows 7.

If I were you, I’d grab the bits while I can… before the people with higher pay grades than Jeff override him.

And a word to Windows Product Management: Whomever is prioritizing the resource allocation of the WMC team in the eHome division is now officially making you guys look bad. Someone needs to walk over to Building 10 and tell Robbie Bach that you’re perfectly capable of making yourselves look bad, you don’t need other management trying to “lend a hand”. Then you need to do whatever it takes to make sure that team gets the resources it needs to continue be a full-fledged part of your product. Don’t make excuses, or “him and haw” over the fact that you “don’t have the money”, just do it. You were gonna blow $40B on a has-been company, you can cough up the dough. And then make sure it gets officially released to all Ultimate customers, or give us our hundred dollars back.

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Comments

  • Anonymous said:

    Hi Robert,

    Nice blog!

    It seems to me that you might have learned little from past experiences!

    I'm confident that the senior-level staff at Microsoft don't just make decisions without considering the pros and cons, the impact on the offering (current and future releases), the impact on the communities of users as well as the bad/good press that might come out of it.

    I'm pretty sure that most of them know alot more about their business than you or I do.

    I'm also pretty sure that calling them morons isn't going to give you a better WMC product.

    It seems to me from reading the posts at the green button that the team is listening to all this feedback (I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't expect it already) and is considering learning from this experience.

    That, to me, is a sign of respect for the community of users and a sign of corporate-maturity.

    Don't get me wrong, Microsoft does deserve a little trashing in the media for doing things wrong. But extrapolating from this experience to the way Microsoft runs business it's just a bitter aftertaste of those longhorn days...

    August 11, 2008 5:27 PM
  • RickyF said:

    Robert:

    Your two posts resonate deeply with me. I gave up on the Vista Media Center experience over 18 months ago when I realized the debacle that had been created by the CableLABS CableCARD decisions, requiring certifyied motherboards only available from large OEMs. The move of cable companies to switched digital video (incompatible with current CableCARD technology) makes this an even more crappy consumer experience.

    I now focus on internet delivered media and TiVo, Apple TV, Vudu, cable company DVRs... to get the other stuff.  MCE is just getting worse and worse. Your posts reinforce the wisdom of my abandoning this flawed Microsoft technology. When I design whole home entertainment systems for my clients I do not incorporate MCE as part of the solution. I feel that I would be leading my customers down a dead end.

    Thank you for posting.

    August 11, 2008 5:34 PM
  • Anonymous,

    Thanks for the post. I think it's pretty safe to say that I am one of the more onsistent among the "Microsoft apologists" that are out there. I covered for MS through the Ultimate Extras garbage, and I've been tring to spread the "good word" about Vista for a long time.

    Having said that, this post was not an apology for the previous one, I simply meant to point out the conversation that had continued over at TGB while I wasn't actively hitting the refresh key.

    As I said, I respect the TEAM, it's whoever wrote the budget, and whomever made the decision to leave Ultimate customers out, that I don't respect. It's *wrong*, and maybe calling them morons doesn't make them see it any clearer, but that doesn't make the decision any less wrong either. And I wasn't referring to the devs, PMs, or beta coordinators as morons, because they rock and have already shipped an awesome product.

    And I'm sorry, but if those senior managers knew their business as well as we did, then they would have looked at the Ultimate Extras debacle and made the right call the first time, before they had to be lambasted in the press about it. They would have taen care of their best customers, regardless of the expense. And they wouldn't have unnecessarily shot themselves in the foot with a press that already hates them over Vista, whether that hate is warranted or not.

    But again, that's just my opinion. Anyways, thanks for the thoughtful feedback! :)

    August 12, 2008 9:59 AM
  • I would also disagree on the "corporate maturity" part. While they have done a good job mitigating the damage on the community, if Microsoft as a company should have learned *anything* from Vista, is that you do whatever it takes to make your most vocal customers happy. And Microsoft's most vocal customers are Enthusiasts and Media Center users.

    When your options are:

    - Cut back the release availability to save a few dollars and piss off our best customers who drive the most word-of-mouth traffic.

    - Make sure that our Ultimate customers, who paid extra for our product and are already pissed because they haven't seen any value from it, get copies so they can say good things about Vista online, whch Google can then index and take some of the sting out of the bad press.

    Then it *should* be a no-brainer. And that's why I called the people at the highest level who allowed this decision to come to pass, morons. Because only a moron would intentionally cause themselves that much avoidable grief.

    August 12, 2008 10:30 AM
  • Rod said:

    Amen brother, I feel your message!

    September 10, 2008 12:33 AM