The awful truth is that every operating system and application system is defective. System complexity, the competitive pressure to hurry applications to market, and simple incompetence contribute to the problem.
Will software ever be bug free? Not likely. Microsoft Windows Group General Manager Chris Jones believes that bigger programs breed more bugs. Each revision is usually bigger and more complex than its predecessor, which means that there will always be new places for bugs to hide. Former Microsoft product manager Richard Freedman agrees that the potential for defects increases as software becomes more complex, but he believes that users ultimately win more than they lose. "I'd say the features have gotten exponentially better, and the product quality has degraded a fractional amount." Still, the majority of users who responded to our survey said they'd buy a software program with fewer features if it were bug free. This sentiment runs counter to what most software developers believe. "People buy features, plain and simple," explains Freedman. "There have been attempts to release stripped-down word processors and spreadsheets, and they don't sell." Freedman says a trend toward smaller, less-bug-prone software with fewer features will "never happen." Eventually, the software ships and the bug reports start rolling in. What happens next is what separates the companies you want to patronize from the slackers.
While almost every vendor provides bug fixes eventually, some companies do a better job of it than others. Some observers view Microsoft's market dominance as a roadblock to bug-free software. Todd Paglia, an attorney with the Washington, D.C.-based Consumer Project on Technology, says, "If actual competition for operating systems existed and we had greater competition for some of the software that runs on the Microsoft operating system, we would have higher quality than we have now."

If commercial systems contain the amount of bugs that this article suggests, what are the implications for systems developed in house? Would in-house systems be more likely to have a lower or higher quality than commercial systems? Explain.

  • CreatedMarch 13, 2013
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