Quality Is Not Optional

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-02-19 Print this article Print

Microsoft should fire everyone involved in its "Goodbye Blue Screen" advertisement.

Microsoft should fire everyone involved in its "Goodbye Blue Screen" advertisement. Im talking about the two-page ad that reproduces a Windows 95 "fatal exception" display, inviting readers to tape this image over their computer screens "if you find yourself missing the downtime." What were they thinking?

Can you imagine Toyota advertising its Lexus sedans as "13 times more reliable" than its bread-and-butter Camrys? Can you imagine brewer Anheuser-Busch advertising its Michelob beer as having "92 percent fewer impurities" than its mainstay Budweiser brand? Thats the kind of comparison that Microsoft makes with Windows 2000 Professional and its mass-market Windows 98.

Im amazed that any maker of any product would ever spend its own money to broadcast the message that core product quality has been less than its top priority. Its not as if were talking about laboratory chemicals, where high-grade means high-priced: Contaminants in natural substances have to be removed.

Bugs in software arent a natural phenomenon: Every software bug was put there by someone who was being paid to write that code. If Windows 2000 can have 13 times fewer failures than a product that Microsoft has had years to refine, what does that say about the companys engineering process?

In an interview earlier this month with eWeeks Peter Galli, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer said that "Windows 2000 is a fundamentally more reliable platform, thats a fact." He didnt say more reliable than what; he didnt need to spell it out.

But Ballmer, in his keynote speech at the Windows Embedded Developers Conference, also said, "In the future, we will not be writing software the way we do now." Welcome words indeed.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel