Microsoft, Apple New Products Step In It

Last Updated Nov 9, 2009 9:46 AM EST

To be young, impatient, and wanting to release software. The description sounds like a start-up working out of someone's spare bedroom, but both Microsoft and Apple have reminded us that even major companies with a lot of money and reputation on the line can step into a sinkhole and release something that shouldn't have gotten out the door.

With Microsoft, the incident seems almost routine -- there is a reason that many (including me) avoid dot-oh releases from the company. But with the disaster that was known as Vista and the critical need to keep people happy (as well as the common sense realization that the new version would get a big pick-up from all who had passed on the previous one), you'd think that the company would have exercised extraordinary care with Windows 7. And, to be fair, something as complex as an operating system is a tough thing to thoroughly debug, even if the company significantly changed the way it was doing development.

But we're talking about the marketplace, and fair doesn't apply. People want a good experience, and if you can't guarantee it, there may be problems. Microsoft is far from the guarantee stage. There are plenty of reports of major upgrade failures. And the problems don't stop there. From DVD drives not found and iPhones not synching to missing applets, there are already "common" Windows 7 problems.

In comparison, Apple did relatively well in two recent product launches. But when you trade on user-friendliness, potentially major oversights are something to be avoided. The most recent version of Mac OS, Snow Leopard, has seen a number of problems:

OK, maybe Apple comes off a little less polished than I said toward the beginning of this article. Certainly I was a bit surprised as I kept finding more issues other than the first one on the list. (There is even the argument some make that Windows 7 is better than Snow Leopard. Having tried neither at this point, I'll stay out of it.)

Operating systems aside for the moment, there's also the new version of Apple TV. The company had to tell people to immediately upgrade to 3.0.1 to keep content from temporarily disappearing. And even then, the update didn't address other problems that arrived with the new version, including "periodic freezes, random restarts, overheating, sluggishness, disappearing networks, screens going 'blocky red', etc."

Why is it that to of the biggest companies in computer products deliver new versions of existing products that don't work out of the box as advertised, or as users might reasonably expect? Is it that they can't? Or that they don't bother?

Image via stock.xchng user actruncale, site standard license.

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    Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. The views expressed in this column belong to Sherman and do not represent the views of CBS Interactive. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman or on Facebook.