You'd think that getting soundly beaten by Google and Yahoo over and over in the online space would mean that Microsoft would take the web a little more seriously. You'd be wrong. Case in point: Today's epic failure around the distribution of the Windows 7 public beta download. This morning Microsoft's web servers fell to their knees under the pressure of constant web page refreshes by eager and willing enthusiasts who want to volunteer their time to test Windows 7 after Steve Ballmer's announcement the download would be available today. Is it fantastic that Microsoft is offering this freebie preview? Yes. Is it shameful that they'd be so woefully unprepared for the demand it would draw? That also would be a YES.
Sure, hosting a multi-gigabyte download on the web is an enormously expensive undertaking, but Microsoft has more money than God. Plus, while the download itself is large, it's only of interest to a relatively small portion of the population. If lack of infrastructure to handle an insane traffic spike over a few hours was truly the problem (even though these were conditions Microsoft created), there are lots of alternatives they could've used that would have kept their servers up. In fact, users have been happily downloading and distributing the Windows 7 beta build 7000 now for weeks using an efficient file-sharing protocol called BitTorrent. (Think it's a crazy idea for a company to use BitTorrent to distribute large files? Ubuntu is always seeding a torrent of their main distro.) Sure, Microsoft's not the only one who's blown web launches. Apple did it spectacularly with MobileMe, and even an occasional Google product craps the bed when the planets misalign.
But for a company that's pushing cloud computing and web services and trying so hard to prove that they're ready to move off the desktop and onto the web, today's Win7 borkfest proves Microsoft is still too clueless about how to do stuff online to be taken seriously.