In this interview, Big Bill gets distracted and reveals his contempt
for you, his loyal customer.
Note: this page is also available in
In an interview for German weekly magazine FOCUS (nr.43, October 23,1995,
pages 206-212), Microsoft`s Mr. Bill Gates has made some statements
about software quality of MS products. [See executive
summary, below.] After lengthy inquiries about
how PCs should and could be used (including some angry comments on
some questions which Mr. Gates evidently did not like), the interviewer
comes to storage requirements of MS products; it ends with the following
- Every new release of a software which has less bugs than the
older one is also more complex and has more features...
- No, only if that is what'll sell!
- Only if that is what'll sell! We've never done a piece of software
unless we thought it would sell. That's why everything we do in software
... it's really amazing: We do it because we think that's what
customers want. That's why we do what we do.
- But on the other hand - you would say: Okay, folks, if you don't
like these new features, stay with the old version, and keep the bugs?
- No! We have lots and lots of competitors. The new version -
it's not there to fix bugs. That's not the reason we come up with a
- But there are bugs an any version which people would really like
to have fixed.
- No! There are no significant bugs in our released software that
any significant number of users want fixed.
- Oh, my God. I always get mad at my computer if MS Word swallows
the page numbers of a document which I printed a couple of times with
page numbers. If I complain to anybody they say "Well, upgrade from
version 5.11 to 6.0".
- No! If you really think there's a bug you should
report a bug. Maybe you're not using it properly.
Have you ever considered that?
- Yeah, I did...
- It turns out Luddites don't know how to use software properly,
so you should look into that. -- The reason we come up with new versions
is not to fix bugs. It's absolutely not. It's the stupidest reason to
buy a new version I ever heard. When we do a new version we put in
lots of new things that people are asking for. And so, in no sense,
is stability a reason to move to a new version. It's never a reason.
- How come I keep being told by computer vendors "Well, we know
about this bug, wait till the next version is there, it'll be fixed"? I
hear this all the time. How come? If you're telling me there are no
significant bugs in software and there is no reason to do a new version?
- No. I'm saying: We don't do a new version to fix bugs. We
don't. Not enough people would buy it. You can take a hundred people using
Microsoft Word. Call them up and say "Would you buy a new version because
of bugs?" You won't get a single person to say they'd buy a new version
because of bugs. We'd never be able to sell a release on that basis.
- Probably you have other contacts to your software developers. But
if Mister Anybody, like me, calls up a store or a support line and says,
"Hey listen, there's a bug" ... 90 percent of the time I get the answer
"Oh, well, yeah, that's not too bad, wait to the next version and it'll
be fixed". That's how the system works.
- Guess how much we spend on phone calls every year.
- Hm, a couple of million dollars?
- 500 million dollars a year. We take every one of these phone calls
and classify them. That's the input we use to do the next version. So
it's like the worlds biggest feedback loop. People call in - we decide
what to do on it. Do you want to know what percentage of those phonecalls
relates to bugs in the software? Less than one percent.
- So people call in to say "Hey listen, I would love to have this
and that feature"?
- Actually, that's about five percent. Most of them call to get
advice on how to do a certain thing with the software. That's the
primary thing. We could have you sit and listen to these phone calls.
There are millions and millions of them. It really isn't statistically
significant. Sit in and listen to Win 95 calls, sit in and listen to
Word calls, and wait, just wait for weeks and weeks for someone to call
in and say "Oh, I found a bug in this thing". ...
- So where does this common feeling of frustration come from that
unites all the PC users? Everybody experiences it every day that these
things simply don't work like they should.
- Because it's cool. It's like, "Yeah, been there done that - oh,
yeah, I know that bug." - I can understand that phenomenon sociologically,
- Bug reports are statistically, therefore actually, unimportant;
- If you want a bug fixed, you are (by definition) in the minority;
- Microsoft doesn't care about bugs because bug fixes are not a significant
source of revenue;
- If you think you found a bug, it really only means you're
- Anyway, people only complain about bugs to show how cool they are, not
because bugs cause any real problems.
Straight from the horse's mouth.
The funniest fanboy letter
so far was curiously deep, in its way.
(Not all software is as unreliable as Microsoft's. For example, PCs
running GNU/Linux or
NetBSD often run for many months
without need to reboot for any reason.)
Text for this page is extracted from the RISKS archive:
This is the raw interview transcript (from which the magazine
article was transcribed in German) kindly provided by the interviewer,
Dr. Jürgen Scriba. The introductory text at the top is from
Klaus Brunnstein, as found in
(A big Thank You to Drs. Scriba, Brunnstein, Neumann, and Marshall
for making this material available, to
Michele Beltrame for the
Italian translation, to
Peréz Gonzáles for the
castellano translation, and
<euske (at) cl.cs.titech.ac.jp>
for the Japanese translation.)
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