Thursday, November 11, 2004

Black Eye? 

Like others yesterday, I tried Microsoft's new search engine. I got a message, "temporarily unavailable." This story explains that the service crashed a few times the first day. In Microsoft's defense, the company released the engine as a beta, but on the other hand, it seemed like a repeat of an old Microsoft public relations failure. The firm has time and again allowed customers to shake down software for it. That is, Microsoft software, despite testing, is usually buggy and requires an update to fix what should have been repaired in the first place.

That a beta version of its search engine should go down immediately was symptomatic. I'm sure the folks at Google and Yahoo! didn't mind a bit.

In defense of Microsoft, their code is millions of lines and testing cannot cover every permutation of peripheral and software usage. However, Microsoft's code, critics say, is just too complicated. If the company simplified it, there would be less chance of failure. I am not a programmer nor software expert, so I cannot tell if that contention is true. I do know I have had my share of Microsoft glitches, some nearly fatal. Nor have I forgotten the Microsoft employee from years ago who said the company did not make errors and blamed me for a bug that was clearly theirs.

Microsoft often is accused of arrogance. That's why when it fails, competitors and long-suffering customers take satisfaction in seeing the company humbled. It might be better public relations if the company were less driven -- but then, it might not be Microsoft.


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