Spolsky: Windows Live, Marimba Phenomenon

Joel Spolsky had a similarly disappointing experience with Windows Live as I did. He calls it the Marimba Phenomenon:

The Marimba Phenomenon is what happens when you spend more on PR and marketing than on development. “Result: everybody checks out your code, and it’s not good yet. These people will be permanently convinced that your code is simple and inadequate, even if you improve it drastically later.”

Hadn’t heard it called that before, but it happens often enough, and the name is great: In the mid 90’s, the company Marimba trumpeted and eventually launched a product called Castanet that was something like a Java-based push platform (this wasn’t long after, or maybe even concurrently to, PointCast — remember them?). To Java types, and many non-Java types (or Java non-types?), Marimba Castanet sounded foundational, revolutionary, indispensable, and had an aura of universal usefulness, with a hip 90’s name to boot. I think the product is still around in a different incarnation. Anyway, the release of Castanet revealed a product that just didn’t live up to the high expectations that had been set. It worked (and probably still works), but it wasn’t foundational, revolutionary, indispensable or universal. So we moved on.

Microsoft has a bit more staying than Marimba, but as long as there’s choice in the Web marketplace, it can’t afford too many launches going off the rails like this.

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