Paul Thorrott’s All Worked Up Over Win 7 RTM

I frequent Paul Thorrott’s SuperSite for Windows for juicy tidbits on unreleased or recently released Microsoft software products. The other day, I was browsing around the Office 2010 pages, looking over the features I should be paying attention to in the 2010 Technical Preview (in which this post is authored). I came across something of a rant by Mr. Thorrott on the matter of Windows 7 RTM. A rant which I found to be quite confusing.

Paul’s main point of contention is Microsoft’s apparent purpose muddying of the waters surrounding Windows 7 RTM.

Instead, Brandon lashes out at the “rumors surrounding RTM,” repeating the Steven Sinofksy claim that …

“RTM isn’t a single point in time.”

Um, what? Releasing a product to manufacturing is very much a single point in time. If it’s not, you’re not doing it right. Life isn’t a giant flowchart for crying out loud.

RTM (Release to Manufacturing) is actually a code-branch. It also refers (obviously) to the act of releasing the finished codebase to manufacturing, for stamping and packaging. However, Brandon LeBlanc’s comment holds water – RTM development isn’t a single point in time. Perhaps this point was misinterpreted. The intended RTM build may go through several candidates. Once again, the wrap up of the RTM branch is slated for the latter half of July. If August rolls around and it hasn’t wrapped up, then start preparing for the flaming torches and pitchfork procession up Microsoft Way.

But Paul isn’t done:

But that’s not my real issue. It’s this little diatribe about leaked builds (bolded emphasis mine):

Beware of what you download. There are many bogus copies of Windows 7 floating around the Internet. More often than not, they contain a rather nice malware payload. And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. When Windows 7 hits RTM, it will be announced here. Until that happens, any builds you are likely to see on the web are either not the final bits or are laced with malicious code.

Wow.

So how will you announce RTM if it’s not a single point in time?

And how is it, exactly, that we should trust what you write if, a) we can’t trust everything on the Internet, and, b) you get so much wrong?

There are bogus copies of Windows 7, indeed packed with a nice malware payload. It’s irresponsible for Paul to intimate, with the emphasis (his, not mine) and a comment that none of the builds he’s downloaded have malware, that no build on the vast Internet has malware. The comments to his article point out that plenty of users have downloaded compromised versions.

And once again, the RTM process ends with the official RTM. So yes, it’s both a “giant flowchart” and a point in time. Jumping all over LeBlanc isn’t going to change that misinterpretation.

Recall that the technical press who attended the Windows 7 Reviewers Workshop in October was promised, explicitly by Microsoft, regular interim Windows 7 builds. We got exactly zero of those builds. So, given the veil of secrecy, we’ve been forced to download “bogus copies of Windows 7” to see how things have progressed over time.

Why did we “have” to do this? Some of us had books to complete, thank you very much. Some are press who simply believe in the whole Fourth Estate thing. I fall into both categories–ultimately, my job is to communicate what Microsoft is doing, after all–and I have personally downloaded every single leaked build that’s popped up. I have also, in fact, had access to several builds that were never leaked widely. I have never, ever–not once–gotten malware as part of any of these downloads. Not once. I’m not saying its not possible. I’m just saying it never happened. Unlike Brandon, I downloaded the builds. Because I had to. Who should you trust on this?

It’s unfortunate that Microsoft did not release interim builds for reviewers, outside of the Beta and then RC1. Whether these were the builds Microsoft was referencing or other ones that were never released, it’s quite comical to see Paul’s indignant reaction to it. Beta 1 was released January 9, RC1 on May 5, and the final RTM build will be available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers a couple weeks after the RTM announcement. That seems decently ‘regular’ to me. In fact, if the intention is to complete a book on Windows 7, it seems to me, downloading leaked, interim builds would only hurt, not help the cause. What is to say feature changes don’t make it into those builds, only to be undone or changed further in the officially released builds? While the Beta 1 and RC1 builds didn’t come with any sort of guarantee, the leaked builds were even less certain. ‘Forced’ to download leaked copies is like saying you were ‘forced’ to park in the disabled spot because there were no other spots. You just find another way.

Further, Paul says the following:

Regarding RTM, I have been told privately on more than one occasion that we can expect a few weeks of dicking around (not the official term, but, I think, more accurate) while Microsoft takes build 7600 and basically revs it based on last-minute fixes. This happens with each Windows release, of course.

Of course it happens with each Windows release, because it’s the RTM branch process. Just like there were months of ‘dicking around’ before RC1 was released. And the same before Beta 1. You get the picture. Programmers don’t individually build their pieces of code, slap it together in integration, and ship it as the final RTM build. At least, I’d hope not. I think you’d end up with something along the lines of Vista, if that were the case. Zing.

But the best part of Tom’s post, the point of it really, is that LeBlanc isn’t alone in misleading the public. Yesterday, during the WPC keynote, Microsoft senior vice president Bill Veghte neatly tap-danced around when Microsoft would RTM Windows 7. In fact, it was disappointing because he was so vague. Here’s what he said about RTM, and you can see it for yourself at 56:41 in the video (again, emphasis mine):

It is such an exciting time. This month we will release Windows 7 to manufacturing, and we write that next chapter, we go after that opportunity.

There’s just one problem. The official transcript of the speech, clearly written off the script ahead of time (or just a simple mistake, I guess; either way, it’s wrong), reads as follows:

It is such an exciting time. This morning we will release Windows 7 to manufacturing, and we write that next chapter, we go after that opportunity.

So again, I have to ask? Why are you, Microsoft, railing against bloggers when you don’t even get it right?

Because plans can’t change, right, Paul? Sure maybe the intention was to have the final RTM build ready that morning, but the likely reasoning behind the last minute change, was well, a last minute change in the code. It’ll be done this month, so don’t get your panties in a bunch yet, simply because Bill was informed of a slight change in plans. Hardly worthy of the conspiracy you’re drumming up, Paul.

Why doesn’t Ultimate get a temporary low-cost Upgrade? You screwed those customers, plain and simple. Now you’re screwing them again.

It’s a money game. Sorry, but people get screwed every day. Is it right? Probably not. But even if Microsoft were to release a cheap upgrade for Ultimate, it would still be more expensive than Professional. Perhaps they don’t see the demand for it? Who knows? As always, no good deed goes unpunished. Cheap upgrades are fantastic, yet the focus is on the one party that gets screwed. I wonder if we’d still be having this conversation if there were no cheap upgrades, period.

Why don’t you support in-place upgrades from your single biggest customer group (XP users)? You could upgrade from XP to Vista. Why are you punishing the biggest group of Windows users by making the Windows 7 “upgrade” more difficult for them? Don’t you care about your customers? You used to: You supposedly delayed Windows 98 to support in-place upgrades from Windows 3.1 over a decade ago. Remember that?

Part of the issue was probably the rash issues of upgrading XP to Vista. Drivers and applications broke left, right, and center. That was part of the issue with Vista, when drivers weren’t complete or just plain buggy. Applications from XP weren’t compatible with Vista. Upgrading to Windows 7 would be little different. Microsoft is promoting a new start with Win 7. Think of the horror stories that would pop up if XP to Win7 was allowed. Then it really would be a rehash of Vista again.

Why is Windows 7 so freaking expensive in some parts of the world, especially Europe? And don’t say VAT. That’s not it.

Why are camera lenses so expensive in Canada?!? Why is broadband so expensive in Australia? Here’s a thought – perhaps the EU’s been banging the Microsoft monopoly drum for so long, Microsoft feels it can price Windows 7 to drive some users to something else. Hey, 80% market share would still be pretty good, if it meant not getting dinged with a few billion every couple years. Please, I hope you noted the sarcasm. Come on, Paul, you don’t seriously expect us all to get on Microsoft’s case for Europe’s traditionally inflated prices for just about everything (education excluded)?

Promotional copies of Windows 7 are sold out? How can you “sell out” of a product that hasn’t been manufactured yet? Sorry, I’m calling BS on that one.

Microsoft placed a limit on the number of pre-sale copies at the promotional price. In fact, it happens quite often. Video games often have pre-sale discounts for a limited number of copies. The product isn’t sold out. By all means, buy the upgrade at the full price. In fact, buy 100. I bet they still won’t be sold out of those. Don’t sound as if you are so entitled.

Microsoft has done a much better job than Vista in opening up its development process and design methodology with Windows 7. That’s not to say they haven’t made mistakes. Oh, they have. But Paul’s diatribe seems more like someone trying to make a story of an issue that doesn’t exist. Perhaps everything’s going a bit too smoothly. There’s no controversy like with Vista to generate legitimate news these days, it seems.

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