Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Is Steve Ballmer even aware of his own product roadmap?

Recently, CEO of Microsoft Steve Ballmer told an audience of developers that they planned on shipping the next Windows product in 2012. There he made the first public references to the next release, and he even referred to it as "Windows 8."

However, this report indicates that Microsoft as retracted Ballmer's statements, saying "There appears to be a misstatement... To date, we have yet to formally announce any timing or naming for the next version of Windows."

Hmm. Steve Ballmer—a CEO and loose cannon? Apparently so.

This is troubling in a couple of ways. First, in the face of Apple releasing yet another major version of its operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 "Lion," this news eradicates the hope of Microsoft keeping a consistent and competitive release cycle. Second, what kind of shape is Microsoft in behind the curtains when its own CEO either doesn't know or doesn't have the authority to speak publicly about his own flagship products?

When I first heard the news about Windows 8, I was hopeful, excited, and even proud of Microsoft for keeping on its game to maintain a consistent Windows upgrade cycle. The current version of Windows, Windows 7, was first launched in October 2009, about a month after Mac OS X Snow Leopard, the competing Apple platform. However, with Apple looking to ship a brand new version of OS X this summer, Microsoft again trails behind in their releases.

Not that they need to keep up with Apple to maintain their market-share, but Apple sure puts them to shame in the number of major iterations of each company's desktop OS. If you remember, Windows XP, released in late 2001 rode a product life cycle of almost 6 years. Whereas Mac OS X in the same time had 4 major product iterations.

Again, with the very likely possibility of  OS X 10.7 "Lion" to launch next month, Windows users will have to wait at least another year before any tangible release dates start looming around.

Just as a side-note, with the wide dynamic of Windows users, I really just dawned on me that a large portion of Windows users, i.e., large businesses and IT professionals, may not be ready for or even want a new version of Windows. Having probably only recently finally gotten the ducks in a row with Windows 7, a new version only two or three years later may actually be a hassle. Just sayin'. But that speaks a lot about how Microsoft develops and deploys, and how their customers use, their products.

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