Bill on a bad day -- Bugs? Who cares?
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 97 12:48:13 -0800
Subject: Bill on a bad day -- Bugs? Who cares?
[Yet another example of history being written by the victors... -psl]
Forwarded-by: Dan Hunt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In an interview for German weekly magazine FOCUS (nr.43, October 23,
1995, pages 206-212), Microsoft`s Mr. Bill Gates has made some statements
about software quality of MS products [See executive summary, below]. After
lengthy inquiries about how PCs should and could be used (including some
angry comments on some questions which Mr. Gates evidently did not like),
the interviewer comes to storage requirements of MS products; it ends with
the following dispute:
FOCUS: Every new release of a software which has less bugs than the older
one is also more complex and has more features...
Gates: No, only if that is what'll sell!
Gates: Only if that is what'll sell! We've never done a piece of software
unless we thought it would sell. That's why everything we do in software
... it's really amazing: We do it because we think that's what customers
want. That's why we do what we do.
FOCUS: But on the other hand - you would say: Okay, folks, if you don't like
these new features, stay with the old version, and keep the bugs?
Gates: No! We have lots and lots of competitors. The new version - it's not
there to fix bugs. That's not the reason we come up with a new version.
FOCUS: But there are bugs in any version which people would really like to
Gates: No! There are no significant bugs in our released software that any
significant number of users want fixed.
FOCUS: Oh, my God. I always get mad at my computer if MS Word swallows the
page numbers of a document which I printed a couple of times with page
numbers. If I complain to anybody they say "Well, upgrade from version 5.11
Gates: No! If you really think there's a bug you should report a bug. Maybe
you're not using it properly. Have you ever considered that?
FOCUS: Yeah, I did...
Gates: It turns out Luddites don't know how to use software properly, so
you should look into that. -- The reason we come up with new versions is
not to fix bugs. It's absolutely not. It's the stupidest reason to buy a
new version I ever heard. When we do a new version we put in lots of new
things that people are asking for. And so, in no sense, is stability a
reason to move to a new version. It's never a reason.
FOCUS: How come I keep being told by computer vendors "Well, we know about
this bug, wait till the next version is there, it'll be fixed"? I hear this
all the time. How come? If you're telling me there are no significant bugs
in software and there is no reason to do a new version?
Gates: No. I'm saying: We don't do a new version to fix bugs. We don't.
Not enough people would buy it. You can take a hundred people using
Microsoft Word. Call them up and say "Would you buy a new version because
of bugs?" You won't get a single person to say they'd buy a new version
because of bugs. We'd never be able to sell a release on that basis.
FOCUS: Probably you have other contacts to your software developers. But if
Mister Anybody, like me, calls up a store or a support line and says, "Hey
listen, there's a bug" ... 90 percent of the time I get the answer "Oh,
well, yeah, that's not too bad, wait to the next version and it'll be
fixed". That's how the system works.
Gates: Guess how much we spend on phone calls every year.
FOCUS: Hm, a couple of million dollars?
Gates: 500 million dollars a year. We take every one of these phone calls
and classify them. That's the input we use to do the next version. So it's
like the worlds biggest feedback loop. People call in - we decide what to
do on it. Do you want to know what percentage of those phone calls relates
to bugs in the software? Less than one percent.
FOCUS: So people call in to say "Hey listen, I would love to have this and
Gates: Actually, that's about five percent. Most of them call to get advice
on how to do a certain thing with the software. That's the primary thing.
We could have you sit and listen to these phone calls. There are millions
and millions of them. It really isn't statistically significant. Sit in and
listen to Win 95 calls, sit in and listen to Word calls, and wait, just wait
for weeks and weeks for someone to call in and say "Oh, I found a bug in
this thing". ...
FOCUS: So where does this common feeling of frustration come from that
unites all the PC users? Everybody experiences it every day that these
things simply don't work like they should.
Gates: Because it's cool. It's like, "Yeah, been there done that - oh, yeah,
I know that bug." - I can understand that phenomenon sociologically, not
So... Bug reports are statistically, therefore actually, unimportant;
If you want a bug fixed, you are (by definition) in the minority; Microsoft
doesn't fix bugs because bug fixes are not a significant source of revenue;
If you think you found a bug, it really only means you're incompetent;
Microsoft spends millions each year convincing people that their complaints
are groundless; Anyway, people only complain about bugs to show how cool
they are, not because bugs cause any real problems.
Straight from the horse's mouth.
© 1997 Peter Langston