Is Microsoft being responsibile with Mix and PDC?

I previously wondered whether Microsoft has the right Mix, i.e. whether it will present things that are good enough at the Mix07 conference starting this Monday April 30 2007.

The official site lists some of the things that will be presented at mix including: “Exciting new Web experiences with the still-secret “Technology X””

This leads me to the point that even after it’s sold out, Microsoft and it’s bloggers seem to take the “You have to be there” attitude about these occasions without disclosing what the cool stuff is. Perhaps this attitude has been started more on blogs than by Microsoft officially – it’s not like Ray Ozzie has blogged anything despite many saying he’s been working on something. Offering a free copy of Vista to attendees seems hardly enticing given that any enthusiast or developer will already have it, if not many licenses threw their existing partnership or subscriptions with Microsofot. Why don’t you tell me what kind of things you’re going to be revealing, and then I’ll decide whether it’s worth thousands in expenses and many thousands more in opportunity cost to be there? There doesn’t appear to be any hint of keynote streaming or other remote viewing offerings to Mix right now, although I’d be really surprised if the keynote isn’t available at least on-demand afterwards.

Yesterday I was searching for clues about the potential Mix announcements. I found this on Microsoft’s MSDN Channel 9 forum, where Robert Scoble gloats about having seen some small demo or other that no-one outside of Microsoft (including him) is supposed to see.

Other than a nasty personality clash (which I’ll talk more about in my next post), in that same thread there are comments about how forward-looking PDC and Mix are. The statement from the Microsoft camp seems to be that while there were many things talked about in bygone PDCs about Vista features that never made it, these demonstrations should have been taken lightly and just as a point for discussion. I would say that such a claim shows a lack of responsibility ownership by Microsoft to the same extent that is shown with excessive profanity in music leading youth, skinny models leading young girls in the fashion industry and powerful media outlets influencing the news.

OK, so it’s one Microsoft person giving this back peddling claim. In any case, Microsoft must surely realise how it strongly encourages developers to get involved with technologies it says (initially) should be in the next OS, and this means that developers commit not inconsiderable resources to learning these things and giving feedback.

I’m not sure that it’s made entirely clear to developers that the technologies presented up to, during, and after these events can really be so… disposable (particularly if one pays so much money to attend or buy a DVD of the proceedings).

I actually think Microsoft needs to be announcing some real launchable (non-beta) things at Mix – I don’t think credibility will be too high if all we hear are a few more ‘ideas’. I realise Bill Gates was no blogger, but Ray has had a false start or more where he’s initiated some potentially interesting ideas but not followed through for a long time with his blog. I know Expression is, um, kind of launched in pieces aswell as taking an awful long time, though it’s not surprising when there are no WPF UI design tools for Visual Studio.

I also wish Microsoft would stop using team members’ blogs as dissemination points for how-to topics and announcements for upcoming and released technologies, instead of having the stuff of MSDN where it should be. OK to be fair, those bloggers are doing (good for them) through the out-of-band channel, what Microsoft should be doing through the main channel (and with appropriate vapourware warnings).

I really do hope that Microsoft has some great services, technologies and tools to offer next week and that they are extremely clear about what is real, and what should come with a repeating disclaimer and big flashing warning lights.