'

Understanding what Microsoft announces when: sequence

Why did Microsoft only talk about HTML5 and CSS apps for Windows 8 and not go into the details of Silverlight and .NET support?

Why did Microsoft only talk about HTML5 and CSS apps for Windows 8 and not go into the details of Silverlight and .NET support? Why did Microsoft only announce details like the user interface and features for Windows Phone 7 at first and make us wait until the MIX conference find out about the programming model? Why did some selected press get to play with the Windows Phone Mango update before developers? Doesn't Microsoft want people to know what it's doing? (rhetorical...)

Whatever Microsoft does or doesn't do, it upsets someone who feels left out. I think it's a fundamental lack of trust in the company that's a problem all on its own, but what Microsoft announces when puzzles even people who feel goodwill towards the company. For Microsoft it's all about the audience of each announcement. Windows Phone evangelist Brandon Watson gives such a good explanation in his blog post about how developers will get access to Mango that I think it's worth quoting for posterity; it's about what you reveal to the audience it's relevant too - and in what order.

"Lastly, we got a lot of questions in email and on twitter as to why reviewers got Mango first. In short, it was to allow us to get you Mango today. Bringing a product to market requires a healthy balance between marketing features and empowering the ecosystem. Striking that balance is all about sequence. Microsoft believes in developers like no other company, but not even we want developer tear downs serving as the foundation for how consumers ultimately understand Mango. To get Mango to you today, we had to first set some context so that the market would have a good understanding of the product and not define us only by those features that developers uncovered. Think of it this way: if you could choose which path to go down, would you rather have a tightly selected group of influential people write your first reviews of your amazing app, or leave it to the customers with the fastest fingers?"

Are Silverlight developers the single most important audience for Windows 8 news? Without meaning the slightest offence - no. The two Windows 8 demos so far have been aimed at the press, at the general user and at the hardware companies that will be making Windows 8 PCs and tablets. When Microsoft needed to convince analysts and carriers that Windows Phone would be a viable platform, it showed the features that would impress them. And in each case, the detail that the more technical audience wants isn't actually finished. Mango is further along so the gap before handing it over to developers is shorter than in the other cases. It's not that Microsoft is ignoring the audience they're not talking to at the time; it's that it's trying to get the message out to the people it thinks can amplify it the most at the time.

Mary Branscombe