Microsoft Faces Late Heat over Visual Studio 2005 Quality

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-11-07

Microsoft Faces Late Heat over Visual Studio 2005 Quality

SAN FRANCISCO—On day of its official launch of Visual Studio 2005, Microsoft Corp. is finding itself facing some tough questions around its bug fixing policies and plans.

According to some bloggers cited on the "Mini-Microsoft" blog, the much anticipated release of Visual Studio 2005, which is slated to ship Monday, following a vaunted launch event here, may be going out too early. For its part, Microsoft is committing to provide a service pack for the product but not providing further details.

Some bloggers, such as Ayende Rahein, said: "Its interesting to note that nearly all those bugs were known to Microsoft, but were closed because of time constraints. Im shocked that even after countless CTPs [Community Technology Previews] and two betas, there are so many serious-youll-lose-work-and-tear-out-your-hair bugs in the product. Refactoring is useless the moment youve a web project, period."

Meanwhile, Roy Osherove wrote in his blog: "Its completely amazing to me that VS.Net 2005 RTM [release to manufacturing], after a big cycle of testing, alphas, betas and LOTS of community feedback, can be this buggy. All Im really doing is working on a very small Winforms projects on a VPC [virtual PC] with 1 GIG of ram, and appearing out of nowhere, the compiler decided that it cant find any StringBuilder, Form or Component types in any assemblies. As if Ive lost all the references to System assemblies in my project (which of course, I did not!)."

Did Microsoft wait too long to ship Visual Studio 2005? Or did the Redmondians rush out the product before its time? Click here to read Mary Jo Foleys view.

However, Microsoft is not without its supporters. Mitch Barnett, a software architect with successful development tools to his credit, said he has had enough about "inconsequential bugs" and wants to hear about what value the Visual Studio IDE delivers to developers.

"What I want to hear about is the critical innovations in the IDE that make my ridiculously hard job as a programmer easier," Barnett said in his blog. "Like the baked in bits for Software Factories, DSLs [Domain Specific Languages] Visual Designers, GAT [Guidance Automation Toolkit], et al. These are the critical innovations in the IDE that make my job easier. These are fantastic for me, you have no idea what a positive thing this is. I want to see more knowledge share like James Averys incredibly useful Visual Studio Hacks book. As a programmer, that is what is useful to me. How come I dont hear [more] about this?"

And Wesner Moise, a software developer in Seattle, building a new artificial intelligence software company, said in his blog: "Despite the few hiccups, I am enjoying VS 2005 and have been able to work with it productively. VS 2005 is stable and performant, and its better to have it arrive now rather than later. The runtime is solid, and various products across Microsoft and outside also depend on it being delivered on a timely basis."

Of course, the negative comments outweighed the positive. But Microsoft maintains that it has done its due diligence in shipping a product that is solid. Indeed, many of the companys key partners signed off on the release of Visual 2005 last month.

"In case you dont know, the VS and .Net Framework development teams have a customer board building applications on our beta software, and we need them all to say were good to go before we can ship (or to tell us that their development schedule doesnt allow them to upgrade to the latest release candidate and thereby excuse themselves from the process)," said John Montgomery, director of Microsofts Developer Division, in his blog on Oct. 4. "So yesterday we got the signoff from the 24 customers (any one of whom can stop our ship cycle)."

And while swearing by the products soundness, Microsoft has committed to a service pack update of Visual Studio in the future.

Next Page: Microsofts "proud of quality."

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Meanwhile, Microsoft said that with tens of thousands of beta testers there are bound to be a few who find issues. And more than a million developers signed up for Visual Studio 2005 betas and Community Technology Previews, the company said.

A company spokesperson said: "Were proud of the quality of Visual Studio 2005 and the .Net Framework. At the same time, these are complex software projects, and we recognize that some customers may run into issues. To date, customer feedback has been very positive overall. While we strive to fix every issue that surface, there is always more work we could do to make the product better, and we encourage the community to continue to provide us with feedback as they work with the new tools."

Several .Net developers had called for Microsoft to take more time and to deliver another beta of Visual Studio 2005. And while Microsoft did not agree to do that, the company apparently will be delivering an interim version of Visual Studio to be available before the "Orcas" version of the IDE. Orcas is the code name given to the next major version of Visual Studio, which is expected to be released around 2007. The follow-on version to Orcas is code-named Hawaii.

Eric Maino, a member of the C# tools team at Microsoft, in his blog said Microsoft is working on an interim technology based on the Visual Studio tool set known as MQ. However, it is unclear if MQ will be a Visual Studio 2005 service pack or an internal milestone only.

Microsoft is already looking ahead to the next version of Visual Studio. Click here to read more.

"Recently I have been asked by many family and friends what I am doing at work now that we have shipped Whidbey [Visual Studio 2005]," Maino said in his blog. "Some speculate that we are diving into Orcas, some think Orcas is complete and we are working on Hawaii, while others seem to think we are on a big break for the next few months. While I cant answer this question for everyone I can answer it for myself and most of the developer division (there may be some people going on vacation for a while, so I cant speak for them). The developer division as a whole is working on MQ."

Maino described MQ as "a milestone that is post-Whidbey and pre-Orcas that will focus on quality."

Added Maino: "We have learned a lot from the previous three versions of Visual Studio that were built around the .Net Framework, the biggest lesson that we learned on this most recent version was that we were not agile enough and we took too long to ship. This milestone while it will not answer everything it gives the division time to analyze its processes and make improvements. Every team (just like a business) has areas that it would like to improve, but hasnt been able to in the past when there is code churn and deadlines looming. I really think that MQ is a great step in the right direction."

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