"Windows 7 Download Frustration", Defended

A friend of mine and fellow NFJS speaker, Ken Sipe, blogged about his experiences with Windows 7, and unfortunately, they're not positive. In fact, they're downright painful to read.

And he hasn't even begun the installation process yet:

First I went to the public beta site... and selected the 64-bit version in english and got this [screen shot]. WTF?? Repeated attempts resulted in the same. An oops page with a pre-canned search. Where did I go wrong? Well as you can tell, I'm on my Mac. So I pulled out fusion to launch Windows XP for round 2 of the attempt.

I thought this is just wrong, but determined to get a look, I switch to windows and my suspicions were confirmed when I got one page further. I got the download page with a couple of large buttons on the bottm of the page and one read "Download Now". Hey, that's what I want... I want to download now. I clicked the button and... nothing. Click... Nothing... No way... they didn't. Round 2 was in XP, but with firefox.

Round 3 as you would expect is XP with IE. That combination was successful and I'm now 29% into my download.

BTW... In the process of testing a few more times in writing up this blog, the round 1 mac failure was fixed to the point where you will get download page (nice response time msft), however the download button fails.

Why is it necessary to be like this? Why is it so hard to put up a link to a download which is platform neutral? Wouldn't Microsoft want to attract customers from other platforms? Does it always have to be all or nothing?

Ken, for whatever it's worth, I ran into exactly the same roadblocks you did, in almost precisely the same sequence you did. The only saving grace for me, personally, was that after Firefox (on the Mac instead of inside the VM) couldn't download the image, I thought that maybe Microsoft wanted to use their custom "File Transfer Manager" utility (that allows for multiple connections, suspends and restarts, etc) to do the download, so I fired up the VM that has that utility installed, and surfed to the MSDN Subscriber Download page instead of the public download page.

Now, I could go into spin/defense mode and try to point out that the vast majority of the people interested in working with Windows 7 are, in all likelihood, going to be that same community of users that use IE, and that Microsoft is only really beholden to those folks, or that Microsoft knows that the beta images will scream through the Internet over BitTorrent streams anyway, or that Microsoft wants to make sure that it's available to those IE users first, or .... But that would all be a pretty slippery slope, and quite frankly, I don't really believe in any of those arguments, anyway.

Why does Microsoft do this? Honestly, in the spirit of "Never attribute to malice that which can be explained by stupidity or ignorance" (one of another NFJS speaker's favorite quote), I think the causation here is pretty simple to explain: I doubt anybody at Microsoft tested it with any other browser beyond IE. I could be wrong, of course, but I'm guessing that the conversation went something like this:

Manager: "Dilbert!"

Dilbert-the-website-dev: "Yes, boss?"

Manager: "Steve Ballmer, you remember him? He wants a public web page for downloading the Windows 7 beta, and he wants it yesterday. Make it happen!"

Dilbert: "Yes, boss. But what about--"

Manager: "No buts! This is TOP PRIORITY. Make it happen!"

Stupid? Yep. An attempt to exclude anybody except those on IE from downloading it? I doubt it.

Stay strong, Ken. It really does get better after this. Really.