I thought companies didn't document their products (say, a hardware device for a computer) for one of two lame reasons:
- “It'll give our competition an insight into how we did things and therefore they'll steal our R&D from underneath us.”
- Their hardware is so crappy they don't want anyone to know just how bad it really is.
But the primary reason, so according to Mark, is that the companies are afraid of releasing the documentation because most of it is incomplete, inaccurate or just doesn't exist to begin with.
And forget trying to get documentation from programmers or engineers—they'll either quit and go elsewhere (where they don't have to document) or what they write will be so horrible that no one actually uses it (which is pretty much status quo from what I understand).
Or, even if the company can release the documentation, it does no good because chances are good that they used products from other companies that don't document what they did, or don't release documentation, or don't release documentation without a thick layer of NDAs to CYA.
So the next time you get that chip from Intel for your next hardware project? Just toss the documentation—it's totally bogus anyway.
Just don't ask about the next bridge you drive over.