Redmond Magazine has an interesting article this month called Microsoft Math. They’ve examined Microsoft’s track record in hitting the product ship dates. Although the results don’t surprise anyone because everyone, including Microsoft employees themselves, assumes their products will not ship on time.
Microsoft has been late delivering products going back to Windows 1.0. Looking at the numbers, it has been a common practice for them to deliver products that are 12, 14, 18 or even 21 months late. According to the graphics from Redmond Magazine below, the Windows desktop products are delayed on average 10 months and the Windows servers on average 9 months. Windows NT 3.5 was the only server product that was shipped on time.
I believe having these numbers published would help Microsoft make more realistic promises for the release of their products because they would realize that it’s pretty embarrassing for a company to not deliver on time so consistently. I would rather see a product that works and is well tested, instead of seeing it released on time. But why not say that Longhorn will be released in the Spring or Summer of 2007, instead of end of 2006? Perhaps Microsoft will release Longhorn on time and surprise all of us. I also don’t mind at all if Microsoft drops or adds features at the last minute. They have every right to do that. They want to release a product that works properly. If they can’t include WinFS in Longhorn then that’s fine. They will offer that at a later time when it’s ready. However, I do have a problem when organizations don’t deliver their products on time because it shows that the company is not organized, lacks project management, and doesn’t care what the impact might be on their customers.
It’s unfortunate that being consistently late in delivering products affects Microsoft’s credibility because there’s a lot of time, talent, and energy goes into each and every product.