This one is painful for me, because we all want to believe that the group at Microsoft currently responsible for Windows is righting all the wrongs. But the truth is, they're making the same communication mistakes that the company made when Vista was coming. That is, while Microsoft is preaching "clarity" in their OS, they've been anything but clear in communicating what's happening. In fact, they've actively and sometimes even purposefully muddied the waters.

The most obvious example of this, sadly, is Microsoft blogger Brandon LeBlanc. Brandon's a good guy, a really good guy, but his last couple of posts on the official Windows Blog have been painful. I take particular offense at yesterday's post, innocuously (as ever) titled, Update on Windows 7 RTM. You would expect such a post to simply explain what's going on with the Windows 7 RTM, spell out a rough schedule, and be done with it. The whole thing could be wrapped up in about three sentences. That's not what we get.

Instead, Brandon lashes out at the "rumors surrounding RTM," repeating the Steven Sinofksy claim that ...

"RTM isn't a single point in time."

Um, what? Releasing a product to manufacturing is very much a single point in time. If it's not, you're not doing it right. Life isn't a giant flowchart for crying out loud.

But that's not my real issue. It's this little diatribe about leaked builds (bolded emphasis mine):

Beware of what you download. There are many bogus copies of Windows 7 floating around the Internet. More often than not, they contain a rather nice malware payload. And don’t believe everything you read on the Internet. When Windows 7 hits RTM, it will be announced here. Until that happens, any builds you are likely to see on the web are either not the final bits or are laced with malicious code.

Wow.

So how will you announce RTM if it's not a single point in time?

And how is it, exactly, that we should trust what you write if, a) we can't trust everything on the Internet, and, b) you get so much wrong?

Recall that the technical press who attended the Windows 7 Reviewers Workshop in October was promised, explicitly by Microsoft, regular interim Windows 7 builds. We got exactly zero of those builds. So, given the veil of secrecy, we've been forced to download "bogus copies of Windows 7" to see how things have progressed over time.

Why did we "have" to do this? Some of us had books to complete, thank you very much. Some are press who simply believe in the whole Fourth Estate thing. I fall into both categories--ultimately, my job is to communicate what Microsoft is doing, after all--and I have personally downloaded every single leaked build that's popped up. I have also, in fact, had access to several builds that were never leaked widely. I have never, ever--not once--gotten malware as part of any of these downloads. Not once. I'm not saying its not possible. I'm just saying it never happened. Unlike Brandon, I downloaded the builds. Because I had to. Who should you trust on this?

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Regarding RTM, I have been told privately on more than one occasion that we can expect a few weeks of dicking around (not the official term, but, I think, more accurate) while Microsoft takes build 7600 and basically revs it based on last-minute fixes. This happens with each Windows release, of course. Not coincidentally, Tom Warren at Neowin has a nice post about this exact thing happening right now.

In recent days build 7600 has leaked with the build tag 7.7600.16384.090710-1945. The 16384 part is significant as it's the "minor part" which indicates it is a build Microsoft may be ready to release. If a minor change is made the build becomes 16385, 16386 etc.

Update: Just got word from several sources that 7600.16385.090713-1255 has been compiled but it's not yet clear if this is just the Windows 7 WDK only or client too.

But the best part of Tom's post, the point of it really, is that LeBlanc isn't alone in misleading the public. Yesterday, during the WPC keynote, Microsoft senior vice president Bill Veghte neatly tap-danced around when Microsoft would RTM Windows 7. In fact, it was disappointing because he was so vague. Here's what he said about RTM, and you can see it for yourself at 56:41 in the video (again, emphasis mine):

It is such an exciting time. This month we will release Windows 7 to manufacturing, and we write that next chapter, we go after that opportunity.

There's just one problem. The official transcript of the speech, clearly written off the script ahead of time (or just a simple mistake, I guess; either way, it's wrong), reads as follows:

It is such an exciting time. This morning we will release Windows 7 to manufacturing, and we write that next chapter, we go after that opportunity.

So again, I have to ask? Why are you, Microsoft, railing against bloggers when you don't even get it right?

And if RTM isn't a single point in time, why was senior vice president Bill Veghte originally going to announce it yesterday?

Microsoft, don't be petty enough to even respond to this. Do be mature enough to start communicating this stuff effectively.

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You know what? I can't let this sit. There is so much more wrong here. I have so many questions.

Why doesn't Ultimate get a temporary low-cost Upgrade? You screwed those customers, plain and simple. Now you're screwing them again.

If Windows 7 is a single "global launch," then why is it being dribbled out in stages to MSDN/TechNet, SA customers, consumers, and so on? It's more of a staggered launch than a single point in time (cough).

Why don't you support in-place upgrades from your single biggest customer group (XP users)? You could upgrade from XP to Vista. Why are you punishing the biggest group of Windows users by making the Windows 7 "upgrade" more difficult for them? Don't you care about your customers? You used to: You supposedly delayed Windows 98 to support in-place upgrades from Windows 3.1 over a decade ago. Remember that?

Why do certain locales not get special promotional pricing? Australia?

Why is Windows 7 so freaking expensive in some parts of the world, especially Europe? And don't say VAT. That's not it.

Promotional copies of Windows 7 are sold out? How can you "sell out" of a product that hasn't been manufactured yet? Sorry, I'm calling BS on that one.

On and on it goes. There are a hundred of these, I bet. All valid questions, I think.

But heck, don't read everything you believe on the Internet. Or something. :)