Darryl Taft at eWeek has just written one of those testimonials to new Microsoft software (Why Vista Matters to Developers) – in this case, Windows Vista and the new Developers tools and “opportunities”. I have to admit I am biased against Microsoft on how it treats its developers since I have seen how many times in the past they have played “nicey nicey” to developers when they need the developers to help to shore up and or expand a market … and then turn on those same developers when it starts to mature and/or Microsoft has decided to enter competing technologies in the market. Also Microsoft has been from time to time very “slash and burn” on older software technologies when they want users and developers to convert to new ones (but they dont come close to match the “Burn and Dismantle the Bridges” approach taken by Apple among others in major software conversions). One has only to look at the Windows utilities and security markets, project development software, or the once teeming Visual Basic add-in market. In contrast, the Adobe plugin market which dates from the VB era is still flourishing and outright expanding.
Given this history I looked for Darryl, who is a pretty straight shooter, to do one of two things in the article: 1)caution developers directly about the sweet in the Spring, harsh in the Fall cycle of development for Redmond and/or 2)point out some of the competing opportunities that are fast emerging in the IT development space that dont require a commitment to monasticism or Open Source to succed. Open Source does provide protection against zero-pricing which Microsoft did against Netscape and is currently doing in the BI market place (Hello DOJ Antitrust Agreement legal guardians) with its huge giveaways (Analytics, Reporting and ETL for free for now)with every copy of SQL Server. Alas – Darryl did not choose to cover either topic.
Competing Technologies to Vista
First, Vista will not be WOW – its introduction is much more WOOPS. See here and here for the latest Vista woes. Microsoft is going to be in humble-pie mode for some time. But of even more import is that the competition on the desktop is now just as good if not better than Vista. There is nothing compelling now in Vista. It is all in “futures”:
– Apple and Linux have better prices especially considering the bloat extra hardware requirements of Vista.
– Apple and especially Linux have better hardware compatibility than Vista right now supporting more peripherals.
– Apple and Linux have better reliability since Windows still has Clot, Rot, and ActiveX/COM problems.
– Apple and Linux have a better security record to date; but the jury is still out here.
– Apple and Linux have a much better interoperability story. Developing for Windows Vista cuts developers out of the not just Apple, Linux, mobile and Web marketplaces but also much of the “old” Windows including XP and definitely Windows 9x, NT, and 2000. So now developers have to weigh two things – 1)How good are those Windows “futures” and 2)if you hit the killer app how long will Redmond let it prosper without muscling in for a “royal” piece of the action?
Finally, is Microsoft Vista really way ahead in Windows 3D Presentation, Desktop Searching, or Speech apps ? E-mail me if you have a Vista Killer sighting in any of these categories. Rather one really should pay attention to the following technologies:
1)SaaS as envisioned by SaleForce.com and carried forward by a diverse set of Web 2.0 technologies.
2)Delivery of real 6As presentation software which is not just device and platform independent but also runs online or offline. This is super-powered RIA and is being delivered by the likes of Flash => look carefully at Open Laszlo (savvy IT shops like WalMart and GE are committing to it) and Adobe Flex 2 plus some interesting 3D stuff from eRain and discreet. But do not discount Java as it is positioned to be most secure and cross platform and Eclipse and Netbeans are great IDE platforms for generating apps, applets, and J2ME. Also consider the hybrid stuff Nexaweb and Sun are doing with Java+AJAX.
3)Look carefully at SOA based Web Services – this delivers not just backward compatibility, interoperability, but also reusable components that can be small to system-sized. It also is forcing a lot of governance and workflow/collaboration issues to come to the fore.
Remember with Vista users are cutoff from not just interoperability (by definition Vista is designed to only allow programs to run best on itself) but also from recourse if things get nasty. Microsoft has simply not let others prosper. Simple test – name one software vendor that comes within 35% of Microsoft revenues (forget profits…) that runs exclusively in Windows. Sure their are vendors that are Windows primarily – Intuit, Corel, and Techsmith immediately come to mind. But there is no powerhouse Windows developer with multi-billions in revenue. And those that have big billion dollar Windows revenues are under attack – Accounting/ERP, Graphics(Adobe has a big Redmond bulls-eye target painted on everyone of its major markets), andCRM are just a few software market that Microsoft has targetted . Autodesk comes closest to being a major Windows shop but its revenues are barely 1/10th of Redmonds. And with its purchases of high-end graphics software, Autodesks dependence on the Windows platform has declined. And with Adobe on the Redmond graphics Bullseye – how long can Autodesk duck the slings and arrows being sent that way?
So unlike Darryl, I say yes indeed there is lots of money to be made in the Vista marketplace. But that desktops 80-90% share likely will take even longer to convert to and the actual % desktop share will likely diminish like in the browser market place given Vistas bloat, virtualization, and Apples Leopard. Also the desktop will lose IT dollars and attention as Web, mobile and smart embedded/connected apps proliferate. So if you are a Vista developer, be very careful until Microsoft learns to let others prosper (and mightily). In short, you better watch your back.