I can’t believe I used to be one among the Microsoft-hating sheep sometime ago. Micro-soft has come a long long way since those days of noncompetitive practices. Windows has evolved into a secure and reliable operating system with a consistently improving user interface.
I think everything changed in the Windows space with Steve Ballmer’s famous “developers” pitch. This was the first time that Microsoft was working on Windows as a rather large software/services/entertainment platform, rather than just a commodity user operating system. More developers meant more market share. More developers meant better software for the masses. So, how do you entice developers to adopt your platform? You give them superior development tools for the right price! And, this is exactly what Microsoft has been doing for quite some time now.
Previously, the major stumbling block for small/hobbyist developers for the extremely high cost of developer tools. This made FOSS technologies more suitable for students and hobbyists. Another lesson for Microsoft was the extreme success of homebrew development on its first generation XBOX gaming console. People like to have control of their devices, and some are even motivated enough to do some development.
Microsoft learned well and based its new XBox 360 gaming console on a very robust development platform. One of the requirements was to make the tools omnicapable for Xbox as well as PC/Windows game development. That way, developers can use the same tool to maximize reach, and hence increase profits for both themselves and Microsoft. Makes perfect economic sense as well as serves the geek in all of us. With this end in mind, Microsoft launched Channel 9, as well as Visual Studio Express editions for free. These express editions make it very easy for hobbyists like me to use the latest .NET tools in my projects. Not to mention that SQL Server Express edition is one of the best single server databases out there!
Well, Microsoft has delivered further on their agenda, and has now announced a set of XNA Game Studio Express tools to be available for free next month! I am overjoyed. I have been interested in video games since my childhood, and now it’s so much easy to learn using the same tools big name publishers use for their expensive video games. The icing on the cake is Microsoft’s promise to allow small developers to post their games on the XBox Live Arcade for others to use. The membership to the program is very cheap to obtain.
I just can’t get enough of coding practice these days!
Addendum: Click here to watch a funny remix of Steve Ballmer’s “Developers” pitch, and here for an archive of his famous “dances”.