Steve Sinofsky, senior vice president at Microsoft for Office, responded in a Talkback to my post to BillG about making some of the interface improvements available now rather waiting until Office 12 ships in late 2006, or 2007 if it slips.
I hear you and we are super commited to continuous improvement. We do this in two ways currently, based directly on what customers are experiencing with the product.
Every week, we add templates, clipart, and assistance materials to www.microsoft.com/office. This is done based on the ratings customers give our materials and based on what people ask of the help system in Office.
With our service packs we update a significant number of real-world quality issues as reported by our Customer Experience Improvement program (the dialog that appears when you exit the programs prematurely). Each service pack addresses these issues and we've been doing that every 6 months or so since Office XP. By doing this we have dramatically improved the overall quality of the product (yes I am sure some of your readers still have issues and we're working on those -- click Send! when you experience them).
Both of these mechanisms are anonymous, private, and opt-in.
I hear your feedback on major improvements to the products being made available this way. Our customers, in general, have told us that significant changes to teh features/UI in the core products make them harder to manage. So we add these improvements at major releases. Also, releasing these optionally also makes for an IT management challenge.
I'm glad you're anxious to get your hands on teh new experience. We're excited to bring it to you and your readers. As BillG mentioned this morning, the beta will be this year and we will release in 2006.
Here's my response to Sinofsky:
Thx for the quick response to my posting. I still contend that taking two or more years to improve user interfaces isn't fully serving users. It's partly a business model, catering to the largest enterprises who don't like lots of updates and a part of the MS development culture. How about opening up the architecture more so developers can bring innovations sooner than later, creating a directory of these components, certifying them and creating a marketplace like salesforce is trying to do with appexchange?