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Mouth Not So Wide Shut?

I do agree with Joel that publishing upcoming features before they are ready can lead into troubles. For example, Blogger has been displaying the upcoming features for Blogger Pro since the beginning but since the beginning a large proportion of them are still at the "Coming Soon" stage. Eventually you tend to loose patience and simply move on to another product. So on that point, not saying anything is a good idea.
On the other hand, if you are entering a market where you already have competition out there, I think informing potential customers is important. As a user, you compare product A vs product B. Product A has features X,Y,Z but his lacking feature W. Product B already has features W, Y, and Z and is working on implementing X. That makes it easier to choose product B. Maybe the key here is to display only features that are not new or revolutionary. ie features that your competition already has. In that case, you are not losing your competive advantage when you release a new feature that blows the competition away and customers can still feel confident in choosing your solution even if some standard features are missing cause they know they will eventually be coming.
As well, if you are producing development framework like .NET, I think it is really important to inform users of the upcoming features as companies have to fork huge amount of money to get development going (computers, IDEs, training, books, hired experienced employess...). Customers of .NET had to feel confident that if they started using .NET, they would eventually have all the tools required to achieve their goals. Also AFAIK Sun came out with J2EE before .NET so MS had no choice but direct attention to their product.

S
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Microsoft have used this as a tactic to damage innovative competitors. The stoory goes:

1. Company X announces and ships innovative product.

2. Microsoft quickly announce that they too are working on functionally equivalent project.

3. Everyone waits for Microsoft's product and doesn't buy Company X's.

4. Company X goes out of business. Microsoft quietly 'shelves' project.

No, you're not reading slashdot :-)

Tom Payne
Thursday, January 16, 2003

Interesting Tom,

do you have any specific examples of this?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 17, 2003

Tablet PCs? (when they first came out 5+ years ago, Go & Pen computing)

Dictation (a la Dragon Dictate)?

Mobile phone operating systems? (although that's not going in MS's favour at the moment: see current problems with the Orange SPV and MS being taken to court by a former UK development partner)

Xbox vs. PS/2 & N64?

Java vs. .NET? MS was maybe a bit slower on this one, but their dropping of support for Java in Windows and hyping of the functionally similar .NET is suspicious.

DirectX vs. OpenGL?

To be fair, other developer's see MS's ideas and think "that's a good idea, but I don't want MS to control it" and as a result announce their own versions, e.g. Sun's response to the now-scrapped Hailstorm.

My point is that pre-announcement can be an effective weapon, particularly if you are already in a dominant position in a closely tied field. MS. being the single largest player in the software market by a huge margin, is in an excellent position to exploit this weapon and does so regularly.

Tom Payne
Friday, January 17, 2003

While I think there is a shred of truth to the idea that Microsoft have used vaporware announcements to harm competing products, your last three examples are way off base.

> Xbox vs. PS/2 & N64?

Do you really think this situation applies here?  Console buyers are not CIOs.  Microsoft's name meant nothing in the console market.  The attempt to create pre-buzz for XBOX was to try and get developers on board to create software for the system launch... and is completely par for the course in consoles.  (And, uh, N64?  That's so 1996.  I think you meant the Gamecube).

> Java vs. .NET?

Java was around for years before Microsoft mentioned anything about .NET (or even 'COOL').  Java was already well established as a server-side development technology before Microsoft started talking about .NET publically as well.  I just don't see this fitting. 

> DirectX vs. OpenGL?

This one is reaching as well.  While the Quake games proved you could use OpenGL for game graphics, DirectX is a lot more than a 3D API.  And while some people may argue that OpenGL could have been used instead of inventing Direct3D, I believe Microsoft made a sound choice in developing their own API and its paying off in spades now.  OpenGL is a great API from a design standpoint, but it suffers way too much because of the committee atmosphere in which it is now developed (a committee made up of competing vendors, mostly).  While DirectX 9 has a high level shader language and cross-vendor support for many other advanced graphics features, OpenGL is languishing and at the current pace of things  I wouldn't be surprised if OpenGL 2.0 were released at about the same time as DirectX 11. 

Yo-Yo MaMa
Sunday, January 19, 2003

Tom,

of the examples you gave, which one of those got quitely shelved?

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, January 20, 2003

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