on Compatibility

What happens when you want people to upgrade to a new release? You have to bring their files and their friends along. That is, you must keep your customers compatible with the old file formats for as long as their friends use the old version. To illustrate the point, Microsoft offers the Microsoft Office Compatibility Pack for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 file formats:
Microsoft has added new file formats to Microsoft Office Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 to reduce file size, improve security and reliability, and enhance integration with external sources. To help ensure that you can exchange documents between Microsoft Office releases, Microsoft has developed a Compatibility Pack for the Office Word, Office Excel, and Office PowerPoint 2007 File Formats.
Officelogo On the one hand, they introduced a new series of Office products (and new file formats) and want everyone to upgrade to 2007. On the other hand, they need to upgrade the old 2003 programs to support 2007 file formats. [I guess they figured out that I'm the only one who actually bought 2007 and I'm sending my XML files to everyone else and driving everyone crazy.] Graham adds,
Once downloaded, I had to run it and was greeted with a large EULA. I have to agree to allow Microsoft to make its own products compatible with each other! It is so frustrating! After a couple of minutes it installed and I had to go back to the original message and re-click the attachment. At least I did not have to re-boot as is typically the case with Microsoft (like the 11 hot fixes Microsoft asked me to install in Windows this morning!!!!).
New vendors--without an established customer base--have the luxury of not worrying about backward compatibility; established vendors must worry about it! And the universe of files in that format is an incredible barrier to change...  until a startup finds the "weakness in your strength" by making the barrier irrelevant.
Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.


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