20 April 2006

Signs of Eclipse

Microsoft never gives ought for nought. Few remember that originally you had to pay for Internet Explorer, which formed part of something called Windows Plus; it was only when beating Netscape Navigator became a priority that Internet Explorer suddenly became an indissoluble part of Windows that could never be removed without destroying the whole system (funny that I remembering uninstalling it without causing any global chaos).

So the news that Microsoft is making Visual Studio Express free begs the question: why? Since we can discount the theory that Steve Ballmer has become a closet communist, we might suspect that there is a competitive reason. Surely it couldn't be because that funny old Eclipse project is beginning to, well, eclipse Microsoft's own offerings among the "18 million recreational and hobbyist developers" that the press release mentions by the by?


Shlomi Fish said...

See How Microsoft Lost the API War by Joel Spolsky for an alternative explanation. (It's under the heading "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers" right at the beginning).

I personally doubt that what you're saying about Eclipse being the reason is the right reason. OK, if people use DevStudio Express, which they can get free of charge, instead of Eclipse - what's in it for Microsoft? They aren't going to make more money this way.

OTOH, if people use DevStudio Express to create more applications for Windows as Spolsky explains, then Windows will become more attractive, which is a good reason.


Shlomi Fish

glyn moody said...

Well, my logic goes something like this. We're talking about catching people when they are just starting out in their programming; as they advance, they're likely to stick with the tool that they know best.

If Microsoft gets them young, it keeps most of these later programmers. Similarly, if it loses them early, it's unlikely to win them back.

Speed-reading through the Spolsky, his argument looks similar to mine, but in the context of experienced programmers: Microsoft wants to keep the developers, so it gives away the tools.