October 29, 2003

The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations

The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg succumbs to the soft bigotry of low expectations. He writes about Microsoft's new product:

WSJ.com - Personal Technology: Overall, I like OneNote. It's a good idea well executed, especially for a first effort at Microsoft...

Hold Microsoft to the same standard you hold everybody else's 1.0 releases, Walt!

UPDATE: Walt Mossberg corrects me: I have misinterpreted him. He didn't write "It's a good idea well executed--for a first effort by Microsoft, that is." He wrote "It's a good idea well executed (and, surprisingly, it's a first effort by Microsoft)."

Posted by DeLong at October 29, 2003 08:21 PM | TrackBack

Comments

It's true that, historically, Microsoft's 1.0 releases have been about middle beta; worse than average. However, the only 1.0 releases I really trust are Open Source. As Linus sagely says, Open Source products are the only ones immune to pressure from the sales and finance departements to get them out the door before they're finished. MS is bad, but they're not alone. So, Walt isn't as bad as he sounds.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on October 30, 2003 05:08 AM

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I think Mossberg is really earning his $500k/yr.

Posted by: Bob H on October 30, 2003 06:29 AM

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I think Mossberg is really earning his $500k/yr.

Posted by: Bob H on October 30, 2003 06:30 AM

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I think Mossberg is really earning his $500k/yr.

Posted by: Bob H on October 30, 2003 06:35 AM

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I try not to waste space and time if I have nothing to contribute but "the soft bigotry of low expectations" - what a beautiful phrase - and coming from an economist! Highest praise and yes, the bar has been raised!

Posted by: AL on October 30, 2003 08:45 AM

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I try not to waste space and time if I have nothing to contribute but "the soft bigotry of low expectations" - what a beautiful phrase - and coming from an economist! Highest praise and yes, the bar has been raised!

Posted by: AL on October 30, 2003 08:50 AM

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Nonsense. Open Source people want to get to 1.0 as badly as anyone else does. GNOME 1.0 (gnome.org) was terrible without any sales team behind it at all. Other items, like Nautilus, have sales teams, even though they're Open.

One factor is release scheduling: you have to release something on a regular basis, because you need to hold people's interest, and you need to demonstrate regular progress. So you declare that every six months your version will go up by two decimal points, and it's typically an improvement, even if it's not quite what one would hope for a 1.0 or 2.0 release.

No, the best way to find out if something has that "1.0 quality" is to read reviews, or test it yourself. At least with the Open software, you can test it for free.

Verbal at secretly ironic dot com

Posted by: verbal on October 30, 2003 08:56 AM

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No, but he is generally pretty tough on not completely baked products, and I agree that this is a little soft for him, though in its own way that's damning (sort of like when the fact of Japanese cars being better became part of the background of every story on how a new GM or Ford car really wasn't bad, considering). My issue with this product-- which sounds pretty good-- is that it sounds like a $29 piece of shareware, or at least not so much better than simply emailing myself my notes that it's worth $99 (AFTER rebate!). It really would only be worth that, I think, for a Tablet PC owner (so all 5 of you go right out and buy it).

Posted by: Mike G on October 30, 2003 09:14 AM

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But doesn't everybody know that Microsoft doesn't get it right till version 3.0?

Posted by: Bill Woods on October 30, 2003 10:13 AM

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But doesn't everybody know that Microsoft doesn't get it right till version 3.0?

Posted by: Bill Woods on October 30, 2003 10:18 AM

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This must be one of those days when you're not being "fair and balanced," Brad. If you knew anything about my work, you'd know I am in no way soft on Microsoft. I don't hold them to the same standard as everyone else -- I hold them to a higher standard, because they are a court-certified monopoly. In that very same column I called Office 2003 "a yawner" and Outlook "bloated."

OneNote is good, period. I only mentioned the first-version thing because, having attacked them on it many times in the past, I thought it would be only fair (that word again) to praise them for getting a 1.0 right.

Posted by: Walt Mossberg on October 30, 2003 10:37 AM

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The days of '1.0 suckage' are actually starting to fade into history, because the internet creates an environment that's 'all beta, all of the time'. OneNote, at least, has been available in semi-public beta for those interested -- i.e. those who might buy the 1.0 -- for most of the year, meaning that its launch alongside Office 2003 isn't really a 1.0, but more like a fairly sucky 2.0. My own judgement isn't so much 'good, by Microsoft standards', but rather 'could have been a lot more adventurous, but will probably need the file-system innovations of Longhorn to be truly useful'. Brad needn't abandon his blog as his braindump.

Posted by: nick sweeney on October 30, 2003 03:25 PM

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>But doesn't everybody know that Microsoft
>doesn't get it right till version 3.0?

That's a real improvement in itself - they didn't get Windows right until 3.11, though 3.1 was "good enough". I had 3.0 - it was a waste of space.

Posted by: rvman on October 31, 2003 08:30 AM

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