Why do software development companies release software with so many bugs?

Why do so many software development companies release software with so many bugs?

There is an old joke that goes:
Bill Gates says to a manager of a large auto company: “The computer industry has progressed more in 30 years than the auto industry did in 130 years, If I was running an auto-company, cars would fly by now”. The manager answers back “ No, if you were running the auto industry the car would break down every 5 minutes and you would need to: open the door – beep the horn and pull the hand break – to restart it”.

Why are we accepting malfunctions in software, but if our cable TV has the slightest problem we go running to the supplier (and of course demanding compensation)?

I recently installed a very cool VoIP/Messenger application on my iPhone. I managed to speak to my neighbor (who also has an iPhone) and was standing 10 meters away from me, while directing the call through servers all over the world, and it cost absolutely nothing. I was very happy.

Big mistake.

The next morning in both my neighbor’s iPhone and mine, the address book was wiped clean. I had to re-enter all my contacts (over 150!) manually (I didn’t back it up). My neighbor, who I convinced to install this application, had to re-enter 320(!) contacts manually (yep he didn’t have a back up too…). Needless to say, this did not have a positive impact on our relationship :-) . In the product manufacturer’s defense, the product was in Beta version, but still you might expect the application itself to have bugs, who could have known it would jam my phone.

If something like that would happen to me in the “real world” or “non software world” I would go crazy, I would call and complain to who’d ever listen, and to a few who wouldn’t. But here I did nothing , I even partly blamed myself, “they did say it was in beta” I thought, but then again so are all of Google’s tools.

I think that many software development companies are taking advantage of this and releasing very buggy products, with no regular version upgrades and bug fixes, just because they think that the public is “used to it”.

What do you guys think? Will this get better in the future? or will it get even worse? (and where do you think we as a company are in this cycle?)