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An open letter to tech companies

Why can’t all tech companies just be up front with consumers when it comes to release schedules?

I’m not talking about trade secrets, waiting to announce new products or other good reasons for holding back.  Much of these types of releases should be hidden to help keep a competitive advantage.  I’m not asking for them to be a completely open book.  They need to make a profit after all.

What I’m talking about is how they treat us customers like we’re lowest on the totem pole, bottom of the food chain.  From their perspective, we simply buy the products, so why should we have a say?  But that’s precisely why we should: because we buy or use their products.  When I download the latest app or buy the newest device, I’m entering a partnership.  If you’re good to me, I’ll be good to you.

So when a company announces an update or product will come out “sometime in the Spring” or “end of third quarter”, the frustration begins.  I know they’re giving themselves wiggle room, but we all know it just means “the very end of the broad period we just mentioned”.  This is made all the more frustrating when the very soft deadline has come and gone.  As a consumer, I wait patiently for the end of the “window-of-time”.  But when complete radio silence follows at the end of the period, sometimes for months, I have to call foul.

Again, to be fair, I’m not saying “release a crappy product now!” or “Company X can meet their deadlines, why can’t you?”  I’m just asking for them to be up front about it.  Tell us, the consumers who are quivering with anticipation, why it’s delayed, and if/when it will in fact be released.  Even if it’s going to be delayed for months, just tell us.  I submit to you, dear reader, a couple of examples:

  • Audible for Windows Phone – We’ve seen the screen shots.  Paul Thurrott has even played with it and says it’s good.  And a release week was leaked.  Why, great Amazon/Audible, has there been no word since early March?  Just tell us. I’d be OK with, “We hope to release by end of November” or “We ran into some interesting hardware compatibility issues and we’ll have to perform regression testing for the next 12 weeks”.  Anything, really, as long as it’s honest.
  • Ice Cream Sandwich for Motorola Xoom LTE – The only word from Moto and Verizon have been some cryptic internal schedules showing “testing” or “investigating” or whatever. No official word on any dates.  Why all the secrecy?  If there really is a competitive advantage involved with keeping it a secret, why not just tell us?  Search the tubes and you will find forum after forum, comment after comment doing nothing but speculating about when/if this tablet will get ICS, what’s the status and why the delay?

For an analogy, I use airlines and departure times.  Why continue to delay a flight, little by little, 10 minutes at a stretch?  Why continue to keep our hopes up?  Just be straight and tell me the flight is delayed three hours, go get a beer.  Same with tech companies.

As most people know, the key to a good relationship is communication.  That’s all I ask, just tell us.  Guess I won’t hold my breath and go get a beer.