Microsoft: It’s What They Don’t Say

In their defense, it isn’t just Microsoft. I’m still stinging from the software vendor (name withheld to protect the guilty) who threatened to fire employees if they published the internally developed list of 100+ features from the DOS product that weren’t included in the Windows version. And that’s been ten plus years ago.
Anyway…
I just got back from Directions 2006. It’s a VAR created, staffed, and sponsored conference for Microsoft Dynamics NAV (the software formerly known as Navision). Navision is a great product, acquired a couple of years ago by Microsoft. It consistantly wins awards for features, and meets the needs of many businesses that otherwise would need much more expensive software. But that’s for the sales guys…
Anyway…
Version 5.x of Dynamics NAV is coming out in early 2007 (5.0 announced in March, 5.1 to be released, probably in November 2007 [just in time for Christmas]). A few years ago, Navision had announced that a major revision was planned for “release after next.” By my calculation, since the current version was 3.x, that would be version 5.x. There were rumors that they had actually prototyped it in Denmark (where Navision was headquartered before the acquisition).
And now we’re almost there…5.x is coming out. To be completely honest, it looks great. They headline the new features with a feature that I personally think our clients will all want–purchase order and sales order approval, with the ability to comment. They aren’t calling it “workflow,” but they’re awful close. The first release, 5.0, looks pretty much like 4.0, which is good for clients that have trouble adapting to new things. And–better yet–there are some really nice features, and fixes of some things that VARs have been asking for. Like inventory costing, for example.
Anyway…
It’s 5.1 that people are worried about. It looks different. The new user interface (UI) is built in a Microsoft technology called SharePoint Server. They call it role based. This means that an accounts receivable clerk will have a different screen than an accounts payable clerk or a salesperson. In theory it’s great. In a demo this morning, one of the Microsoft pundits showed how you could create a sales order in 7 clicks in the 5.1 UI that took 18 clicks in the 5.0 UI. Good deal. But it looks different. Microsoft has done “usability testing.” They’ve brought in real people to work with the software, and they claim that all of them love it.
Also, they’ve backed off the idea that they’ll replace the original Navision development tools with all-new, all-better Microsoft tools. They’re leaving most of the old tools in place.
I just wonder if somewhere there’s a list of 100+ things that they don’t want us to know about. It’s what they don’t tell me that bothers me. Because I usually find out about the time our clients find out, and then the Microsoft employees are nowhere to be found. By that time, it’s my problem, not theirs. It’s what they don’t say…