Some of Microsoft’s closest friends are warning the company in public what they surely must have been telling it privately — that the long-awaited and long-delayed Vista update of Windows still needs a lot of work. And if that’s true, Microsoft is impaled on the tines of a Morton’s Fork.
Robert McLaws, a .NET developer and Vista beta tester and blogger lays out a picture of a still-unstable Beta 2 version vs. a deadline crunch that just invites mistakes. “I’ve been defending Microsoft’s ship schedule for Windows Vista for quite some time. Up to this point, I’ve been confident that Vista would be at the quality level it needs to be by RC1 [Release Candidate 1] to make the launch fantastic. Having tested several builds between Beta 2 and today, I hate to say that I no longer feel that way. Beta 2 was a disappointment on many levels. It was nowhere near as stable as it should have been, and was a huge memory hog.” McLaws advises pushing the launch from January (see “Don’t you know Lunar New Year is the new Christmas?”) to the end of February, adding a Beta 3 version and taking the inevitable heat. “Don’t defend it, just announce it. There’s no point in trying to put a PR spin on it, because nobody is going to listen anyways. Let your thousands of beta testers cheer you for making the right decision, and tell Wall Street to go to hell,” he writes. Among those bobbing in agreement was Robert Scoble, until recently Microsoft’s voice in the blogosphere. “If this ships [to the factory] in October, I will recommend not installing it and waiting for the first service pack. There’s no way the quality will be high enough to trust it if it ships early. I hope Microsoft takes the time to do this right.”…
And if, like me, you were wondering what Morton’s Fork was, well here’s the Answers.com explanation:
Morton’s Fork is an expression that describes a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives, or two lines of reasoning that lead to the same unpleasant conclusion. It is analogous to the expressions “between the devil and the deep sea” or “from the frying pan to the fire”.
The expression originates from a policy of tax collection devised by John Morton, Lord Chancellor in 1487, under the rule of Henry VII. His approach was that if the subject lived in luxury and had clearly spent a lot of money on himself, he obviously had sufficient income to spare for the king. Alternatively, if the subject lived frugally, and showed no sign of being wealthy, he must have had substantial savings and could therefore afford to give it to the king. These arguments were the two prongs of the fork and regardless of whether the subject was rich or poor, he didn’t have a favourable choice.
Hmmm… I’d have said Hobson’s Choice if I’d been writing the piece.
Later… The learned Bill Thompson writes:
The fork is a more appropriate metaphor than Hobson’s choice since it’s not that Microsoft has no choice – as the good innkeeper would have it – but that it is going to suffer whether or not it delays shipping. A real dilemma – a thesis that has two solutions :-)
He’s right, as usual.