Quality Is Not Optional

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.