June 21st, 2006 • 8:50 am
Following my “impassioned” post yesterday about this very annoying (especially for French typists) bug in Word 2004 that has remained unfixed for two years, Erik Schwiebert has posted a response entitled, somewhat condescendingly, “Bugs stink! Yeah yeah!”
(Yeah, bugs stink. But what really stinks is Microsoft’s chronic inability to address and fix them.)
While I appreciate the effort that Erik put into explaining the situation, both with this particular bug and with the bug fixing process in general, I cannot help but feel that he continues to avoid the core issue, which is that there have been similarly annoying bugs in every single release of Office for Mac in recent memory, and that Microsoft has systematically failed to address them in a timely fashion.
Contrary to what Erik suggests, this is not an accidental situation that stems from a particular set of circumstances. This is a recurring problem with Microsoft products. In my comment on Erik’s post, I mention this bug in PowerPoint X with deadkeys such as the circumflex accent on French and French Canadian keyboards. It’s the exact same situation: A glaringly obvious bug that mostly affects non-U.S. users and that Microsoft not only fails to catch in its initial testing before the release of the product, but also fails to fix in subsequent updates of the product. (The bug was only fixed in PowerPoint 2004, i.e. three years later, in a paying upgrade.)
Does anyone really think that this is just a coincidence?
I might have used strong words in my post, but I am afraid these strong words are justified in light of the on-going problems with Microsoft products. If Microsoft’s products are so badly written that it really is impossible to fix such bugs in incremental updates without breaking the whole thing, then there is something seriously wrong with the entire design of the products, and that doesn’t make the situation any less shameful.
(In case this isn’t clear, this is not a personal attack on anyone at the MacBU. It really puzzles me that, each time I use strong words about glaring problems in Microsoft products, someone at Microsoft appears to take it personally. Why should we refrain from using strong words when criticizing Microsoft products when they are some of the worst products available on the Mac market? I don’t know anyone at Microsoft personally, and my comments are not in any way a reflection of my assessment of any individual’s skills and abilities. My problem is with Microsoft as a business, and with Microsoft products—not with Microsoft employees. It just so happens that these flawed products are made by teams of engineers, and not by emotionless robots. If these engineers cannot cope with criticism of their blatantly flawed products, then it suggests that the entire corporate culture at Microsoft’s MacBU has a strong element of denial. For the record, as Betalogue readers know, I regularly use words that are just as strong when describing problems in products made by other companies, including Apple itself. Strangely, this has never prevented them from responding to my bug reports and indeed, in the case of Apple, from recruiting me to be part of the AppleSeed program.)