From Jim Wilkinson: ...We generally do not put "new functionality" into service packs. Internally, there is no such thing as SP3.1, 3.2, 3.3, ... 3.n. We plan to release SP3.0, SP4.0, SP5.0, etc. We target which defects (both found internally in QA and reported from users) to be fixed in a particular service pack. Then it goes to EV and if a critical issue is found in it, then we will do a point release (like SP3.1). Otherwise, the point releases are not planned. If we need to do a point release, it needs to go through the full suite of testing as any other service pack would go through which takes a considerable amount of time so we can't be releasing point releases all the time...
I apologize for ranting off topic in an unrelated thread. I've started this thread in an effort to correct my error. I appreciate your having taken time to explain the service pack system.
You seemed to be puzzled about what I'm upset about.
What do I want? Reliable 3D CAD software!
When do I want it? Now!
Now, as in SP0, not SP5.1 !
Since that is not possible given SW's perception of the prevailing competitive market, your release of remedial versions of SW is a high priority for me.
From my experience, the current paradigm of "planned" service packs includes new functionality (e.g. changes to licensing systems), corrections to regressions (e.g. put back in the scroll bars), and fixes to new functionality that are widely reported.
Legacy flaws that are irritants to a minority of users are given a lower priority (i.e. ignored).
The dot releases are patches for show stopping flaws - the good news is that they generally address a vital concern; the bad news is that they represent a major embarrassment for SW and are issued begrudgingly.
I doubt very much that this rant will have any impact on the way that SW conducts its business operation. However, I would suggest that there are alternative methods for addressing quality problems.
First, (to paraphrase Shingo) if you don't want to spend time getting rid of something, don't create it in the first place. If you don't want to repair buggy releases, don't release buggy software. Don't release SP0 until it represents a stable, refined, and functional product.
Second, modularize. When the only way to issue a patch is to send the entire 3gb of executables, you do not have a modular system.
Third, offer a patch system that follows the Microsoft Update paradigm - scan the installed libraries and replace those that are out of date. Allow users to schedule their downloads and/or to update on demand. Identify what each patch repairs and allow the users to pick and choose what to fix or ignore.
Most importantly, treat this repair system as if it mattered. My income depends upon the quality of the tools that I use. When a buggy CAD system eats a day's work, it literally eats my lunch.
Issuing the patches at your planned convenience feels like the opposite of customer service.
Alpha & Beta could be great programs. Early adopters could get the latest and greatest, marketing could get all of the bragging rights. Sadly, SW only gives marketing buzz to Beta - it lacks the serious commitment of quality control.
At this point, SW08 SP3.0 should be in the final stages of Beta. It's nearly ready for release as SP0. However, there are gaffs in the product that should be corrected before release as SP0 (e.g. virtual components).
How many bright minds are devoted to working on SW09 and SW10 instead of polishing SW07 and SW08?