Pontifications on Microsoft and the Tech Industry

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Constructive Engagement...with Developers

I thought I’d summarize a few recent developer tool announcements from Microsoft. Taken individually each of these announcements is certainly positive but may appear somewhat inconsequential.  Taken together I think they constitute a very important trend.  First, let’s enumerate them:

  • Visual Studio Team System Database Edition, known informally as “Data Dude,” will be merged into Visual Studio Team System Development Edition.  Current software assurance licensees of either product are being immediately granted a license to the other.  The same is true of subscribers to MSDN editions that include either Team System product (subscribers will be able to download the other product from the MSDN Subscriptions site). This goes into effect October 1, i.e. just a few hours after I will be posting this.  The announcement itself appears in a post on Brian Harry’s blog.
  • Microsoft is shipping the Open Source jQuery JavaScript Library and providing Visual Studio integration for it as a free stand-alone Web download, and as part of the forthcoming ASP.NET MVC release.  Microsoft will also integrate jQuery in future versions of Visual Studio.
  • Microsoft joined the Object Management Group (OMG) earlier this month.

Each of these announcements is a win for the developer.  Many influencers in the .NET community have been saying for a long time that Microsoft should ship a single version of the Visual Studio Team System client and dispense with most of the separate product SKUs.  While the current Team Suite SKU is that unified edition, it’s viewed by many organizations as cost prohibitive and so Development Edition has seen the strongest uptake.  For Microsoft shops to  have to choose between the Development and Database Editions was really awkward.  Most developers need both feature sets, but were forced to pick the Developer Edition.  That caused them to miss out on the Database Edition features that they needed.  Now that will no longer be the case.

The jQuery library, beyond its feature set (allowing developers to determine and modify HTML content programmatically), is an Open Source tool enjoying great popularity.  Microsoft is working with the jQuery team in their efforts to integrate it into Visual Studio and has pledged not to fork the code (build their own custom version).  In other words, Microsoft is embracing an Open Source technology, without reservation, and decided to do so in spite of an initial intent to build such functionality on their own.  From Scott Guthrie’s blog post on the subject: “Rather than duplicate functionality, we thought, wouldn't it be great to just use jQuery as-is, and add it as a standard, supported, library in VS/ASP.NET, and then focus our energy building new features that took advantage of it?  We sent mail the jQuery team to gauge their interest in this, and quickly heard back that they thought that it sounded like an interesting idea too.”

Remember that initial ad campaign for Vista?  “The Wow Starts Now.”  Well, maybe it hadn’t then, but it definitely has now.  Scott’s quote demonstrates an uncanny display of common sense, that is not necessarily, ummm…, Microsoft’s hallmark.  I believe strongly that this pragmatist, a-political approach to making .NET better and working with the broad developer community to serve their interests has a strong believer and advocate in Scott Guthrie and that his rising influence in the developer division means we’ll continue to see such announcements made and measures taken.  This is Microsoft at its best.  Bravo.

Continuing in this extra-Redmond peacemaking (“extra” as in “outside of”, not as in “more”), or at the very least, extra-Redmond détente, Microsoft has re-joined the Object Management Group and has, in effect, staged a reconciliation with UML (Unified Modeling Language).  This means that the forthcoming Oslo modeling technologies are likely to “play well with others.”  That is to say, other companies, other products, and other (skeptical) developers.  That’s good citizenship and it’s good business.  Again, the display of pragmatism is noteworthy.

An effective price drop on Team System, and an embrace of Open Source, UML and an open standards body.  Is this the new, more open Microsoft that some predicted would take root post-Gates?  Perhaps.  Is it a merely a marketing ploy?  Elements of it may be, though I think the earnest component of the announcements is the dominant one.  But even, if in self-defense, developers wish to take a skeptical outlook on these moves, there’s tangible benefits for them to enjoy, and more for them at least to look forward to.



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