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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Put Microsoft In Perspective

I am not going to defense Microsoft here. Here I just want to respond to a good post by a Microsoft developer, whose loyalty to Microsoft is steadily degrading, because Microsoft is rolling out unpopular features and applications and abandoning the good old interoperability principles that served developers so well in the past. Not only that, he was discovering Non-Microsoft way of doing things, and they were eye-openers for him.

I shared some of his experience with Microsoft. Like him, I was a huge Microsoft fan, using everything from Microsoft without even bother to look for alternatives. Microsoft is very good at selling you bundles of good and bad products and seduce you into using them all. It did this with Microsoft Office program that are just a bunch a collection of office programs together-- ranging from the very good (Microsoft Excel) to the not-so-good( Microsoft Access)-- and sold it to the customers at a discount price. A lot of people bought into this. I was no exception. My desktop was then filled with Microsoft applications.

My unquestioning loyalty with Microsoft ended when Firefox took the world by storm. For the first time I realized that there were better software than Microsoft's. In the mean time, in my development work, I came across NUnit, a free unit testing tool for .Net applications. It was a godsend gospel for me, and I stuck with it ever since then. Microsoft tried to catch the unit testing bandwagon by adding unit testing feature to vs 2005. But that feature was too crude to be useful. I still used NUnit and mbUnit as if unit testing feature in VS 2005 didn't exist.

As I spend more and more time on the web, Microsoft products become less and less useful-- I use Google Docs in place of Micrsoft Office, Gmail for emailing instead of Microsoft Outlook, Google Reader for reading subscriptions, Gmail chat instead of MSN Messenger. The list of Microsoft applications that I used frequently shrunk to two: Windows and VS 2008. Even the position of VS 2008 was challenged: when I developed Python applications I intentionally scrapped IronPython in favor of the Non-Microsoft Python.

Microsoft products still dominate my desktop, but Google dominates my online applications. Given that I spent majority of my time of the web, Microsoft was not as important now as it was before to me. The only time I spent on desktop was when I was doing development, and I spent only half of my free time doing .Net applications. Even though I am still proud to be a .Net developer, but at the same time I am also exploring the world outside .Net.

But unlike fans who grow disenchanted with their idols, I didn't harbor resentment when Microsoft no longer meet my expectation. My position is that if Microsoft products are good then I will use them, if not, then no. No hard feelings, no disappointment, no let down.

Microsoft is just a software company. Like all companies, it exists to make money, and as powerful as it is, it is still subjected to competition, human mismanagement and the usual cycles for IT companies. It did a lot of good to the average users and software developers, but now it is seemed more like a dinosaur that lives in its own Jurassic Park ecosystem. But why should we get angry over it? The wheel of history can't be reversed, not even by someone as powerful as Microsoft.

Microsoft, I am immensely thankful to you for making my life as an average computer user and a developer easier. But maybe you should get in tuned with the rest of the development world by stop doing your own standards and support open source wholeheartedly. It would be a pity to see either you slip into insignificance or the other world being crushed. Why can't we just have the combination of the best two?

4 comments:

Paul Houle said...

Well, Microsoft Access isn't that bad for what it is. It's not a good foundation for building big database apps shared by many people, but it's a great tool for building out simple desktop business apps... The big trouble is that most people who use desktop databases don't know about joins...

Anonymous said...

The business model of Microsoft is to keep selling OS's, ok, and copies of Office as well. The reason they give .net away for free, and express versions of the IDE's is to sell OS's. Everything they do is geared to that goal including locking in developers to the windows platform.

My eye opener came when I tried to do .net 3.0 development on my windows 2000 machine a year ago and found my OS of 4 years was outdated.
I have no desire to tie my development future to Microsoft's need to sell OS's which is why I'm now a java developer.

The reason MSFT doesn't change it's ways is that it cannot afford to.

Anonymous said...

"As I spend more and more time on the web, Microsoft products become less and less useful-- I use Google Docs in place of Micrsoft Office, Gmail for emailing instead of Microsoft Outlook, Google Reader for reading subscriptions, Gmail chat instead of MSN Messenger."

Ironically (but perhaps unintentionally :-)), a statement like this makes it sound like you are trading in one big all-encompassing corporation for another.

Soon Hui said...

Ironically (but perhaps unintentionally :-)), a statement like this makes it sound like you are trading in one big all-encompassing corporation for another.

Hi, I don't really care whether I tie my applications to one single vendor. What I care is what who can provide me with most convenience.