Doesn't this just get old at some point?

In the latest example of reporter-I-really-respect-doing-the-wrong-thing, CNET's Ina Fried today wrote a strange article that's more Microsoft bashing than actual reporting. Given her history, this is very, very surprising. Seriously, she's good stuff.

Here's how the article starts:

Microsoft on Tuesday released a new tool designed to allow customers to see whether their hardware and software will work properly with Windows Vista.

Well, except that Microsoft on Tuesday did not release a new tool. Microsoft intends to release a beta version of new tool sometime on Tuesday. It wasn't up as of the publication of the quoted article. But looking over the public Windows Web site (Available via http://www.windows.com or http://www.microsoft/com/windows), I don't see any message about this site existing, or that it's coming. The importance of this fact will become clear in a moment.

No, this isn't an old article. It is July 2008 and Microsoft still finds it necessary to show customers that plenty of hardware and software works with Vista, which has now been on the market for more than 18 months.

They sure do. Apparently the tech press and blogosphere has been mindlessly repeating some untrue rumor about Vista still having compatibility issues. I know, I know. It sounds crazy. But it happens. And those Apple Switcher ads? Get this: People believe they're true. I know. I laugh just thinking about it.

But seriously, folks. Here's the real problem with this article:

The online tool is off to a rough start as well. It was supposed to be publicly available in beta form starting this morning.

It was ... supposed to be? According to whom? Microsoft? Did Microsoft brief you about this earlier than Tuesday and then, what, it didn't happen? If Microsoft doesn't announce publicly that something is going to happen on a particular day and then that thing doesn't happen ... is that, what? Bad? Funny?

However, those that went to the site on Tuesday morning instead got the message, "The Windows Vista Compatibility Center is currently unavailable. Thank you for your interest, but this site is not available yet. Please check back soon."

Now why would anyone visit this beta Web site? Is there a link to it somewhere? I mean somewhere other than this very article in which you explain that the site should be there but isn't? In other words, we read that the site is not available and then visit it, and sure enough, it's not there. Is that really what this is?

I'll let that speak for itself.

Except that you won't. You're not letting this speak for itself, you're editorializing it pretty heavily and then even providing some screen shots—one of which was given to you by Microsoft to show what the site should look like. You're doing everything but letting it speak for itself.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the issue should be resolved later in the day.

Here's the real story. Look how easy this is to write:

 

Microsoft still pushing Vista compatibility story
by Paul Thurrott

Sometime on Tuesday, Microsoft will release a beta version of a new tool designed to allow customers to see whether their hardware and software will work properly with Windows Vista.

That's the whole story. You can write it like that. Or you can make a mountain out of a molehill.

 

PS: Before posting this, I did the requisite ten seconds of research and actually called Microsoft. The company confirmed a few facts: It had briefed CNET about the beta compatibility site and its Tuesday availability. There are no links to this site from anywhere on the Microsoft public Web site. So the only way any individual could ever think to visit it ... would be if they read the CNET article and found out about it there first.

Please tell me I'm missing something. Please. I would love to be wrong about this one.

UPDATE:  Mary Jo Foley also mentions the beta compatibility Web site because it was discussed during a WPC keynote on Tuesday. However, she accurately notes that "The site will be all about helping to 'bust the myth' that Windows Vista is not compatible with many apps and devices." You know, once it's available.

So there are in fact two high profile bloggers linking to the (currently nonexistent) site.

I still find Fried's approach to this thing—which, let's face it, is hardly a major news story—to be snarkier than required. It's a beta site, not a new version of Windows Update.