So who should carry the can for the Vista death march?
While software invariably ships late, Microsoft's successor to Windows XP is not only years late - missing its 2006 ship date for consumers - but more painfully, is short of the radical features we were talking about more than five years ago.
Now Microsoft's best-known and most closely-read blogger has weighed in on the subject, and generated a hot public debate about the future of the company. For some Redmond staff, senior management needs to take responsibility for the chronic delays. For others, the code base needs to be abandoned for a fresh start.
The anonymous Mini MSFT blog - the employee posts under the name 'Who da'Punk?' - has become the premier spot for staff to discuss the state of Redmond. The blog's motto is "Let's slim down Microsoft into a lean, mean, efficient customer pleasing profit making machine!" and has consistently called for a slimmer and more responsive organization, without the levels of middle management engaged in in-fighting ... and meetings about meetings. (Here's a profile from BadgerWeek from last September.)
"Fire the leadership now!" demands 'WdP'. Yes, but who, Who da'Punk?
Here's where it gets interesting. For this week's news is one of the most minor slippages in the history of Blackcomb/Longhorn/XP - a mere few weeks. But it's produced one of the strongest reactions - possibly because 2006 was the ship or bust target - with CEO Ballmer in the frame.
Alas it looks like the decision has already been made, we learn from Redmond court reporter Rob Guth writing in the Wall Street Journal. And the change is as good as "no change".
Office chief Steve Sinofsky will take charge of the Windows Vista successor Blackcomb. The WSJ report didn't endear itself to MS staff, blaming the engineers' "cowboy culture" for the delays.
But can the engineers be blamed for bad planning and processes? These processes get plenty of bashing too on Mini MSFT, with blame put on perennial favorites in-fighting and a surfeit of product managers in middle management, but also oursourcing testing to "non-accountable and barely trained CSGs [contractors] ... oversees".
(The commonest complaint we hear from Microsoft partners is "meetings about meetings about meetings"...)
"Folks, the only difference between Vista and prior releases (back to at least NT4/Windows 2000) is the size of the fuck up. It's been business as usual with resets, lack of planning, disdain for project management techniques used outside MS, and deathmarches throughout," writes one poster.
"God, we look like DEC more and more every day."
(Shortly after that, the thread is taken over by Mac nuts, and isn't worth reading).
But the poster suggests that only a market share fall of 10 per cent will catalyze real change.
Where's that going to come from? Clearly not Linux - which isn't ready for consumers, and which is having difficulty getting past the "trial deployment" stage even in Microsoft's most cost-conscious government accounts. If only there was another mature, x86-compatible operating system available to licenses. That would focus minds wonderfully. ®