Microsoft: Developers Dream ?

eWeek has published under Darryl Taft’s signature a homage and effusive homily to Microsoft as the developer’s “heaven” or dream organization to collaborate and work with. It should be an embarrassment. The 20 page online slideshow looks like a PowerPoint presentation direct from Redmond’s PR headquarters. The thesis is that Redmond has been in the past and continues to be the developers best friend. It is advancing the notion that:

Application Development: 19 Reasons Why Microsoft Is Huge with Developers (and 1 Reason Why Not)

I respond with 5 counter arguments to this strange Paean from eWeek.
1)The first comes from a Dilbert cartoon which captures the early 2000 era when Microsoft’s initial 2-4 years response to its security weaknesses in Windows and IE were leaving individuals and corporates exposed to vicious virus, trojan and other security attacks:
Dilbert.com
Yes, we constantly hear that Redmond is doing all it can. And then the next shoe drops and users finally get disk drive and database encryption. Or a better sandbox for ActiveX. Or the Vista security Sergeant. I currently am awaiting strong email validation and protection – and at the same time dreading to see what Microsoft imposes.

2)Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer as nice guys to developers would be laughable except for the constant whitewashing and extirpation of any refrences on the Web of their actions during the rise of Microsoft from 1989 thru 2000. For example, the role of Steve Ballmer in trashing of OS/2 at Comdex in the 1990’s has all but disappeared from the Web. Likewise, Bill Gates’ one mea culpa about stopping all feature developments on IE browser and resistance towards many W3C and other Web standards seems to be sufficient for full exoneration from this misdeed that has added literally tens of billions of man-hours to web developers workloads in efforts to make Web software work on IE and other Microsoft apps. The topic of the role of Microsoft and support for Web Standards barely gets coverage in any of the IT press.

3)Visual Studio and MSDN are touted as the major developer tools
– and truly they pioneered many developer innovations. However, there is no mentions of the robust developer communities and often free tools available from a broad range of major vendors like IBM, Oracle, Adobe, Eclipse, Netbeans etc. Nor is there coverage of the gap in time between the latest .NET APIs and their full support in Visual Studio.

4) The simple fact is that Microsoft almost exclusively develops for Windows.
Many is the time that Microsoft execs and product managers have identified this as their distinct competitive advantage(there are a few apps on MacOS, but virtually nothing for Linux, Solaris or Unix is typical) . Redmond also maintains apps must run best in Windows for its small cross platform and Web based tools. In sum, this is a definitively proprietary approach. Yet eWeek sees this situation as the perception that any Microsoft interest in interoperability is a myth”. So for developers perceiving they want to use DCE,  CORBA, SVG, Java, JavaScript, Python, XForms, PHP, plus dozens of other APIs and languages be advised by eWeek that you must do things the Iron-decreed Microsoft way … if at all.

5)Finally look at how many developer companies and their tools remain in categories
like Windows utilities or BI applications or Macro Scripting tools – so many fell by the wayside as their capabilities were either absorbed into Windows, Office or some MS apps or were priced at zero as in the data mining, OLAP, and other BI tools given away for free with SQL Server. To live with the Redmond Leviathon was given up for foolhardy by major Venture Capitalists at least a decade ago and they simply did not fund companies and ideas that even suggested interest by or competition with Microsoft.

These are not “Perceptions” – these are the tough realities of doing IT software development with Microsoft as a major player. Go see what Joel Spolsky, a Microsoft alumnus, has to say about living with the bear. So the question remains why this eWeek homegenization? Will eWeek do an equivalent slideshow on the contributions of Oracle to the developer world? Now that Oracle has the rich Open Source and development traditions of BEA, Sun, Seibel, and the like – that would make a fascinating slideshow. Or perhaps the world of Google or IBM or SAS or SAP. A slideshow of equal length on each of these development houses – now that would be of equal to or greater than interest.