One analyst said the road map demonstrated just how opaque Microsoft is when it comes to disseminating information to customers. "Not only do ISVs [independent software vendors] and corporations need to know release dates, but as a customer, you need to know them, too," said Michael Cherry of Directions on Microsoft. "Everyone needs a timeline that's dependable, but it's not enough to just give us dates. You have to give us descriptions why those dates are what they are."
That's something that Microsoft doesn't do early enough in its development process, Cherry said, making it nearly impossible for software makers like Visser, companies that craft their own applications for internal use, and customers -- especially enterprises -- to make intelligent decisions on developing for a new platform or migrating to it.
Cherry argued that a reliable timeline was more important for an operating system than for an application like Office, big as the latter is to Microsoft's revenue, because fewer partners work with Office than with Windows.
"For an OS like Windows, especially WOA [Windows on ARM], I'm kind of stunned at the lack of information available at this point," Cherry said. "There are a lot of people who need to be aware of the changes in Windows and WOA."
Directions on Microsoft creates detailed road maps for its clients, but the job is neither simple or easy.
"It's very hard to do, to represent [a road map] well," said Cherry, adding that it's necessary to show dependencies between products -- how Internet Explorer relies on Windows, for instance -- and timelines that include older products for those rare times when Microsoft takes features from a new edition and backports them to a predecessor.
Cherry highlighted the road map's Office 15 launch in early 2013 as another example of dependency. If Office won't be available until then, Cherry was skeptical of a WOA launch in 2012, what with Microsoft having stressed the importance of Office on that tablet-oriented OS.
"Apple can be secretive because they build the hardware," Cherry said. "The more you control the ecosystem, the more closed you can be. But I've always thought of Windows as open."
Microsoft declined to comment today on the roadmap that Visser uncovered.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. See more articles by Gregg Keizer.
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