Aaron Brethorst

Round peg in a square hole, rabid generalist.

When Is Too Much Transparency a Bad Thing?

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Steven Hodson and Long Zheng wrote yesterday about whether Microsoft is becoming less open and transparent than they were a few years ago: the post-Robert Scoble era, as he put it. Apparently, a new position entitled Director of Windows Client Disclosure has been created to “define the communications agenda” and set the disclosure plan for Windows products.

I don’t think this is such a big deal. Given the presence of the word “disclosure,” it implies to me not that “every blog post” will be filtered, but instead that the announcements of new features, release schedules, and products will be handled by one person.

Scoble told you endlessly back in 2004 and 2005 that Longhorn was going to be the most awesome, incredible, astonishing operating system ever, and reluctantly admitted later that he’d let himself get snowed by a series of great-looking prototypes created in Director. Scoble (and the rest of Microsoft, too) unreasonably built up expectations around Longhorn/Vista, and disappointed a lot of people in the process.

If Microsoft’s Windows Client organization is creating a new position to ensure that information is disclosed when it’s really appropriate, then great! Look at the difference between the disclosure of Office 2007 and Longhorn. On the Windows side, you had entire PDCs dedicated to operating systems that would never ship. On the Office side, you heard not even a whisper about the Ribbon until Office was ready to put early bits into the hands of end users.

Who did a better job of setting and managing expectations? Office, clearly.

What I assume this all goes back to is Steve Sinofsky’s role as the head of Windows client development. Steve will get the job done, done right, and on time. If something isn’t going to make the Windows 7 train, it’ll probably get cut. Better to ensure that Microsoft’s customers never hear about those features that are cut from the current release than to disappoint them.

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