Microsoft: Open Mouth – Change Feet

Sometimes I think that Microsoft is its own worst enemy.
Today, Microsoft has announced the availability of Beta 2 of Office 2007. So off I go to the web site to register and download the beta. First of all I get presented with a new file download manager- SmartSource – yet another one in a long line of download managers from Microsoft. This one uses the .NET version 1.1 framework. Er, excuse me, but Windows Vista comes with .NET version 2.0. So immediately, there is a problem.
OK, so I finally get the software downloaded. And I manage to install Office 2007 Beta 2.
But then the fun starts. The Beta insists on having a new (beta) version of Windows Desktop Search installed. OK, but after installation, I discover that my MSN Search Toolbar in Internet Explorer has been hosed. Sigh – did I really expect Microsoft product groups to talk to one another?
OK, I then want to install the next beta from the Office 2007 suite. So I start up the SmartSource application again. What’s this? "The email address specified is invalid! Please contact customer support or try again."
Er, no, my email address is perfectly valid – it’s your software that is a pile of fucking crap. Oh, and what’s that about "contact customer support"? You provide no bloody means of contacting your bloody customer support. Try again? I don’t think so. Linux is starting to look awfully attractive right now.

About Geoff Coupe

I'm a British citizen, although I have lived and worked in the Netherlands since 1983. I came here on a three year assignment, but fell in love with the country, and one Dutchman in particular, and so have stayed here ever since. On the 13th December 2006 I also became a Dutch citizen.
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12 Responses to Microsoft: Open Mouth – Change Feet

  1. Brian says:

    You do understand what "beta" means, right?

  2. Bill says:

    Welcome to it man. You wouldn’t believe the stuff we see in support; it’s frightening at times.

  3. Matthew says:

    i believe they have disabled the smart download software, now when going to the download site, all you get is the direct file links, you just need to go back and go in again and download normally

  4. Unknown says:

    As Brian has mentioned, I’m not sure you quite grasp the concept of beta software.
    Beta software has bugs, beta software is not the final, polished, tested, QA’d product. This is not just applicable to the product itself but often the installation/uninstallation process, documentation, support and all the other things that you expect from a proper release.
    If you install something like a beta of office on your own machine and expect to be able to use it with no pain/frustration you might be in for a bit of a shock.
    I generally don’t install betas of significant products (OS, office, developer tools) on real hardware that I rely on day-to-day to do my job. If I do then I make sure I test them out on a disposable virtual machine first or speak to people who have.

  5. Geoff says:

    Yes – I do understand what beta means. I’m complaining about a) the SmartSource application – not the Office Beta and b) about the fact that different product groups in Microsoft have a tendency to trample over each other – introducing new features that break other product software.

  6. Gerry says:

    The SmartSource software was the LEAST of my problems, (although problems there are!), I can’t get an of the products to activate.
    Keeps asking me to check my internet connection, well that’s working fine otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this would I?!!

  7. Geoff says:

    Gerry, I sympathise. Although I have to say that so far the Office Beta is behaving well for me. That’s more than I can say for the Vista Beta 2. After two attempts I got it installed on one system, but get BSOD on start up if I try and install the soundcard drivers. On another system it fails to even install – it claims that Winload.exe is corrupt (but it isn’t of course. I suspect that a SCSI card may be to blame, which is confusing the setup process…

  8. Geoff says:

    Humph. It wasn’t the SCSI card causing the install process to fail with Vista. I have no idea what it is. System recovery fails as well. So far then, two machines – both of which therefore do not have a working version of Vista that I can play with. So Beta 2 does not impress.

  9. Sue Hill says:

    Folks – update on status re: the Office Beta effort.  Apologies on the issues with SmartSource – it has been sidelined and was obviously not tested for typical scenario. (ug).  Vendor being used is working to address and upgrade it.  For now, please use the direct download links (click directly on the product link) – they work great and assuming you have a solid high bandwidth connection should serve you well.  Volume was forecast for 5000 concurrent sessions and we peaked at 10K concurrent yesterday when the servers hosting bits began to tip.  Capacity was doubled quickly  (thanks!) and we’re no longer seeing problems in that regard.  Now, the next link the chain is beginning to feel the impact of Europe and Asian users coming online to get the bits. Activation servers for Office are seeing 30 hits per second, which is higher than we’d expect.  Still working to investigate but fear not – folks are on it.  Please be patient and all will get worked out soon.  In addition we’re hearing reports of the French and German copies of Office Professional being corrupted on the download servers.  Those are being updated and should be cleaned up soon as well. 
    Why don’t we have all this well scoped, pre-planned and "Katrina-proofed"?  Because this is beta, because there is huge pent up demand that we might not see simultaneously in a real world scenario, because we’re purposely setting this up to test a few areas in the bits distribution and deployment chain to ensure we’re going to be ready for prime-time, and because we’re hugely focused on making the products great so we can get them out to you in a timely fashion.  The beta experience is to be expected to have bumps along the way, and we thank you for working with us and your patience as the kinks get worked out.  We’ve already gained some good data in simply the issues we’ve seen with the downloads.  
    Are there lessons we can learn from the stupid mistakes? Yes, of course.  We’re noting them and will hopefully do better next time around.  Our major investment is in making great products and thus, we don’t optimize for the greatest, smoothest beta experience, but we know we can do better than this, and we will.
    thanks again for your patience.
    Sue Hill
    Office Customer and Partner Programs

  10. Gerry says:

    Well at least I know now there is a problem with activation, and I guess I’m uninstalling SmartSource too now by the looks of it.
    To say I was pissed off with it was putting it mildly.  I’ve been happily using the previous beta versions happily for ages now with no problems, so the fact that having spent all morning uninstalling, downloading, and installing for absolutely fuck-all benefit was, to say a little irritating?!
    I’ll give it another go in the morning and see what happens!

  11. Geoff says:

    Sue, I appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond to the issues we’ve all been having. Nonetheless I have this feeling that you (Microsoft) are being a trifle disingenous when you claim that you misjudged the pent-up demand. The way I see it, the left hand (Microsoft marketing) has been stoking the fires of demand furiously, so the right hand (online services) should hardly be surprised when everyone duly delivers a Pavlovian reaction to marketing folks and their strokes…

  12. Gerry says:

    Well it’s taken almost 23 hours but I’ve finally got Office + Sharepoint Designer installed AND activated!!  Can I go to bed now?
    Just for a laugh I installed Expression Web Designer… can anyone point out the difference to Sharepoint Designer because I can’t see the slightest one?!

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