Shaw acknowledged that Microsoft's approach to doling out information to the media, analysts, developers and OEMs is different today. "Yes, it has changed, because the world we're living in has changed," said Shaw. "If you look at Windows 7 and then look at Windows 8, there were a whole bunch of things with Windows 8 that we wanted to keep more confidential than public. Look at the decision to build Windows 8 on ARM. That was held very closely.
"But I think that's a hard comparison to make," Shaw continued, speaking of the contrast between Windows 8 secrets and pre-Windows 7 openness. "Windows 8 represented a significant platform shift, with touch, Windows available on ARM as well as Intel, a new app model and a new store, and a new set of hardware from us."
In many cases, Microsoft has taken to parceling out information in small bits, a drip-drip-drip strategy that, to outsiders at least, seems to serve little purpose. The best illustration was when the company announced last week that it would release a public preview of Windows 8.1 at its BUILD conference in late June, but said it would provide other information, including pricing, "in a few weeks." Just seven days later, however, Tami Reller, CFO of the Windows division, said that update would be free.
When asked why Microsoft didn't simply give customers both pieces at the same time, Shaw did not directly answer. Instead, he said, "There are many options, and this was the one that we chose. We thought that it was the best way to get the information out."
Microsoft has made other communication missteps recently. Earlier this year, when news broke that it was permanently tying each retail Office 2013 license to the first PC it was installed on, and would not allow users to later move that license to another machine, the company limited the disclosure to the end-user licensing agreement (EULA), which very few people read, then only confirmed the move after several rounds of questions from Computerworld. In March, after a heated reaction from users, Microsoft backtracked from the licensing lock-in.
"There's a big continuum," Shaw said. "At times we are unbelievably transparent, at times we are moderately transparent, and at times we are quiet. What drives this is not a corporate one-size-fits-all strategy, but the demands of the product or service, and the marketplace."