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Microsoft Out of Favor With Young, Hip Developers 775

An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft's failures with the KIN phone (only two months on the market, less than 10,000 phones sold) are well-known to this community. Now the NY Times goes farther, quoting Tim O'Reilly: 'Microsoft is totally off the radar of the cool, hip, cutting-edge software developers.' Microsoft has acknowledged that they have lost young developers to the lures of free software. 'We did not get access to kids as they were going through college,' acknowledged Bob Muglia, the president of Microsoft's business software group, in an interview last year. 'And then, when people, particularly younger people, wanted to build a start-up, and they were generally under-capitalized, the idea of buying Microsoft software was a really problematic idea for them.' Microsoft's program to seed start-ups with its software for free requires the fledgling companies to meet certain guidelines and jump through hoops to receive software — while its free competitors simply allow anyone to download products off a website with the click of a button." Update: 07/07 13:21 GMT by T : Tim O'Reilly says that while he "[doesn't] disagree with all of his conclusions," he's not happy with it Ashlee Vance's piece, writing "I was not the source for the various comments that were attributed to me," including the bit about "totally off the radar." (Thanks to reader gbll.)
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Microsoft Out of Favor With Young, Hip Developers

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  • Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <sv.dude@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:54PM (#32818748) Homepage Journal

    Microsoft's Bizspark program for startups requires you to fill out a form to get free software. OK, Almost free. At the end of two years, you have to pay them $200. I wouldn't call that "jumping through hoops". I didn't need any double-super secret intros from investors either. I got the info from the Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs - an organization open to anybody.

  • ..rrrriiipp (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elbiatcho1 ( 1554817 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @06:56PM (#32818784)
    More, exotic fart apps is what we now expect from this new generation of HIP programmers.
  • by obarthelemy ( 160321 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:12PM (#32818972)

    Is MS losing money ? retrenching ? no longer the biggest software company in the world ?

    I wish I could lose the way you say they've lost !

  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:30PM (#32819216)
    In the early days it looked like .net might evolve to take on Java in that it was solving all those little coding nuggets that you have to otherwise grind out such as getting files from web servers. But then it turned into marketing for all their other products and the surface area of the whole .net thing grew out of control. But horribly enough I was still having to turn to ActiveX era programming to accomplish anything really cool.

    Then I discovered QT and a whole new world was opened to me. After a year I realized that the only Microsoft product I was still using was Windows and that was seriously getting in my way. That was years ago and MS has not offered me a single geeky reason to go back.

    PHP is better than any .net crap.
    Apache is better than IIS
    Linux is better than MS Server
    MySQL is better than SQL Server
    C++ QT is better than .Net
    Eclipse is better than Visual Studio for multiple languages
    Git is better than VSS
    Mac OS X is better than Windows for programming
    Anything is better than IE

    So I have been able to nearly completely leave MS behind yet am able to release my desktop software with little effort for both Mac and Windows because of QT. I don't see an easy way for MS to get me back.

    But there is a hard way. They could toss the present windows foundation and make Windows 9 based upon BSD. Make Visual Studio compile to a zillion platforms like Mac and Linux all the while opening it up to other languages like PHP. All the while beating away their marketing department who would want to do forced tie-ins to existing products. Then from this new foundation they could let their developers loose to make everything way better. Then, depending on pricing, they might get me back; maybe.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zarthrag ( 650912 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:43PM (#32819356)
    I'm starting a small business all on my own too, and I took a long hard look as Bizspark - but it's big catch-22 is that you have to be developing independent *software*. I've started a hardware company (consumer electronics/industrial robotics). The product is largely defined by it's usb drivers and accompanying software - but in the end, I'm still producing hardware - that's a whole new world of expensive! If MS were open or at least cheap, I could use the latest visual studio, and maybe even their nifty robotics studio too. But instead I'm using (almost) all opensource tools. Visual Studio Professional should be free - period (express is useful, but severely limited since there are no add-ins allowed.) And MS would do well to give away (or make *very cheap*) a "startup" MSDN on the order of $200/yr that includes visual studio professional. I'd say that would be very attractive compared to free stuff. I like MSDN, but not enough to fork over $1200 and 800 a year!
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pavera ( 320634 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:44PM (#32819366) Homepage Journal

    well... I can't believe thats really *all* you have to pay... If you build the next facebook, and in 2 years you need 30k servers... you better believe MS is going to come after you for valid actual fully paid licenses... I have no clue how much that would cost... Licensing a small 30 person law firm costs 30k just for 3 servers and MS office... I can't even begin to fathom how much a datacenter full of web servers and SQL server would cost... well into the hundreds of millions... and you can bet MS will keep coming year after year after year.... They'll want you to upgrade the OS every 3-4 years, upgrade SQL server every 2-3 years... each time taking hundreds of millions of dollars from your pocket... and for what?!? FOSS solved these problems and solved them better 10 years ago...

    MS licensing would have killed facebook, twiiter, and google. Probably yahoo, and just about anyone else too. When these businesses started taking off they were still venture funded, and they were adding hundreds if not thousands of machines a month. With that kind of scaling the doubling in cost for MS licensing would have bankrupted all of them before they had a chance to find a business model. No one building to scale on the web would ever choose MS, its far too expensive when you're talking about thousands of nodes.

    The only major web company I know of that runs MS is eBay... and besides going public in the .com boom, I have no clue how they managed to afford the doubling of their startup costs that using MS means. Maybe they got some sort of sweetheart deal... but MS is notorious for doing a sweetheart deal to start, only to ruin your life when the rubber actually hits the road, trusting them with your business is foolish. eBay shareholders would probably be really happy if the capex going to MS stayed on eBay's bottom line...

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @07:47PM (#32819440)

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's when they actually lost all the "young, hip developers".

    Not really. C# is the cleanest language I've ever coded in. It's the libraries that are fucked up: the .NET base libraries are basically the managed versions of the Win32 platform.

    Compare Qt, which is built on C++ (their greatest flaw), but actually do magic along the nice library to make manual garbage collection look easy [nokia.com], and have an event system which is multithreaded by default [nokia.com]. With Qt, C++ looks more like a scripting language (with the byte-level stuff available if you need it), which is exactly what .NET would have needed to do.

  • by victorhooi ( 830021 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:22PM (#32819878)


    Yes, UI is awesome, I'll grant you. I've owned many iPods.

    However, the way you get music on is a royal PITA. I mean, seriously, you have a closed, proprietary system, with strangely named files/folders.

    The only way to get software on is via iTunes, a slow, unsightly behemoth of a program, that runs like molasses on any platform other than OSX. And even there, on its native platform, it's not exactly greased lightning.

    And how exactly do you backup your music easily, or get music off the player, huh?

    You compare that to something like a Blackberry, or the Android phones (I own both), where you just drag/drop music to anywhere on there. You can also get music off easily. And it reuses the good old file/directory paradigm, so to say, delete a song, you just browse to that song, and...er....delete it? Lol.

    And if you want to manage your music, you're still free to use something like Songbird, or Amarok, or heck even iTunes to search/manage your files. See, you have that freedom. Something that isn't possible with the piece of c*ap that Apple calls iPod music management. Pretty much all music players are moving to the dumb "dump files on the disk" approach - except for those like Apple that are still desperately hanging onto their proprietary locked-in approach.


  • Re:Too narrow (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:24PM (#32819900)

    The Microsoft software stack is designed so that service providers can siphon money off at the point of delivery. Antivirus is a good example. Yeah we sold you an OS but you need this extra thing to make it secure, didn't you know that?

    As much as I dislike MS, this is a case of "never blame malice for what can adequately be blamed on stupidity".

    Microsoft designed a single user OS with no in built security in a time where networks were rare and have been forced to continue on with it by their customer base. All security ended up being tacked on because MS cant afford to kill legacy applications. I really don't think anyone at MS wants Windows to be insecure, it just happened that way and now they have to live with it.

    So its a great way to make money if you stay with their targeted solutions. But if you want to do something totally new the benefits of using microsoft aren't really there so developers look elsewhere.

    This, the entire article is not news and I think this sums it up nicely. For a long time now the innovative people have used OSS whilst the people who just want to bring product X to market used MS.

  • huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tridus ( 79566 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:38PM (#32820072) Homepage

    Isn't it more a problem that Microsoft isn't competitive in the markets where "young, hip developers" are doing things? They don't have a competitive smartphone OS right now, and likely won't anytime soon. That's where the exciting development is happening. So they're not a player.

    If you're a developer looking to do smartphone apps, are you really going to target Windows Mobile? If so, which version? The obsolete one, or the one that isn't out yet? It's not a serious option at this point. So to say they lost developers for some reason is kind of silly, since it's not a problem with their developer outreach or their tools. They haven't given people something to develop FOR.

  • by Jurily ( 900488 ) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <yliruj>> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:51PM (#32820220)

    Win32 makes me want to gouge my eyes out where as .NET libraries cause no such adverse reaction.

    Told you C# was a cleaner language :)

    But seriously, try coding a week in Qt/C++. You'll learn what a decent library should look like. As for Qt's worst weakness: you'll have to deal with templates and the resulting error messages your compiler generates. (And $DEITY help you if you mess up in something 'moc' will generate code from).

    Interestingly, Qt may be for most cases actually better than managed environments: `deleteLater()` only fires when the event loop finishes: implicitly, when the CPU is idle (of course the .NET gc may do the same thing, but it's not guaranteed). Of course this requires you know what you're doing, but that's C++ for you.

  • Here's a big DUH... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dskoll ( 99328 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:07PM (#32820342) Homepage

    I work at a 100% Linux company, but was thrust into the world of MSFT for one day today with some business partners. The one partner was busy trying to deal with a dead Exchange server; he'll be driving straight to the customer site and rebuilding it from scratch... a long night ahead.

    The other partner was also having Exchange server hiccups. And one person's laptop got in a snit and refused to work. A reboot elicited about a dozen scary warnings about missing DLLs until finally it booted to the point where it could limp along.

    And I realized that our on-the-cheap FOSS infrastructure is not only way cheaper than MSFT, but vastly more stable and reliable. I'd really hate to be stuck in the Windows world for more than a day; the nimble FOSS users are going to be the death knell for uncompetitive companies still stuck on MSFT.

  • by mswhippingboy ( 754599 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:19PM (#32820424)

    Really? So .NET assemblies don't run on Mono? That's news to me

    As long as you stick to a subset of .NET 3.5 (no WPF, no WF and a bits of WCF), this is true, but MS is has already rolled out .NET 4.0 so you're always playing catch-up if you follow that strategy. Visual Studio 2010 will allow you to target a specific .NET framework, but true to MS strategy, the Express edition doesn't give you that option - you're forced to target 4.0.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Unoti ( 731964 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:24PM (#32820470) Journal
    The tools may not be quite as good in some cases, but running cross platform makes up for it in my book. And it's getting better all the time. And I agree with you fully-- I might still be a MS developer today if they didn't ask for $1000 USD for developer tools at a critical juncture where I didn't have that kind of money for something that might not work out.
  • by rainmouse ( 1784278 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:41PM (#32820608)
    During my degree in computer science, for third year we were all turning up at computing expo's and fairs looking for an industrial placement year but when we spoke to Microsoft they were arrogant and rude. The said basically not to bother applying, the odds of getting something are so remote you would have to be beyond amazing and we don't think you are, same goes for any post graduation placements. Needless to say, we applied to companies that actually wanted to work some of the next generation of software developers instead.
  • by MrSteveSD ( 801820 ) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @11:05PM (#32821154)
    It's not just about having good polished development tools, it also about vendor lock-in and cross-platform ability. Lots of companies are moving over to Linux and .NET doesn't exactly play well there. There is Mono of course but there are potentially serious legal issues and I suspect many companies are quite dubious about using it.

    C# and much of the .NET platform is very nice indeed. The Generics in .NET put Java's to shame. If Microsoft had actually open-sourced .NET it would probably have blown Java out of the water. But they didn't and they probably won't. When it comes to the mobile phone arena and its numerous operating systems, the lack of cross-platform ability becomes even more of a problem. Microsoft has never been into making their tools cross-platform because their real interest is in promoting their own platform. As long as they continue down that route, I think the user base of their development tools will continue to dwindle.
  • by Sam Ritchie ( 842532 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:22AM (#32822014) Homepage

    When it comes to the mobile phone arena and its numerous operating systems, the lack of cross-platform ability becomes even more of a problem. Microsoft has never been into making their tools cross-platform because their real interest is in promoting their own platform. As long as they continue down that route, I think the user base of their development tools will continue to dwindle.

    Ah, I see - like the lack of cross-platform tools/ability is causing the Cocoa Touch/iOS platform to dwindle?

    This is rubbish. If Microsoft had had a good mobile strategy 5 years ago, instead of flogging (with a stylus) the dead horse that is Win CE/WiMo, they would own this market now. Instead Apple & RIM (both emphatically not cross-platform or open) have thrashed them by producing good products that people want to buy. Astonishingly, this is what it takes to succeed in business today.

  • what goes around... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @01:44AM (#32822150)

    comes around, as they say.

    When trying to lock people in to your products and culture you must be careful so as not isolate yourself and lock yourself out of the rest of the community. Seems MS has been so tightly focused on product and student lock-in (the latter should probably be called "student hijacking") for a very long time now and now they've looked up and opened their eyes and suddenly noticed, "shit, where is everyone??". They've discovered that they've locked themselves in all alone... fallen prey to their own agenda you might say.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @02:20AM (#32822326)

    That was my experience too, when I interviewed with them my senior year. I understand it's standard practice for them to be rude and combative in interviews, to "weed out" those that won't conform to their internal culture. I'm glad it worked on me.

  • by TheKidWho ( 705796 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @04:06AM (#32822912)

    Try coding in ObjectiveC and Cocoa for a week, you'll learn what a really good library looks like.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:03AM (#32823526)

    I find it to be the opposite. C misses constructors and destructors, actual usable strings, std::vectors, function overloading, etc... It's possible to work in C, but darn it's annoying. C++ rules.

  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @06:54AM (#32823820) Homepage

    And again I have to point out, MOST =/= ALL, Microsoft's version of 'Open' =/= Open.

    Just read their EULA's - Only for use as a reference, can't make your own implementation, you can't sue them if you read the source code and find out they use your patents. If they sue you for the same reason (patents) and you counterclaim with your own, your license ends right there.

  • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @07:53AM (#32824202) Homepage

    I would actually say that their development tools are still top-notch. The new stuff is really efficient, easy to use and pretty quick. The biggest problems I see with the Microsoft tools are :

    (a) You are locked into the Microsoft Stack. You need to run your creations on the Microsoft platform which has a higher TCO than alternatives. Also, if you plan on making that hip-new-app, you need to release at the very least on Win and Mac, which the Microsoft Stack has a hard time with (don't bring up Mono -- it's great as a toy, but in all honesty, I would not trust it for production)
    (b) The tools ARE expensive. Who can drop $1500 every other year for their tools? Large businesses, sure. Businesses that don't make money yet can't. Let alone the MSDN and TechNet Subscriptions you need, which will set you back thousands of dollars more.
    (c) The .NET runtime is a moving target. I know developers who have had to basically trash all of their work to target the latest .NET Runtime. 1.0 -> 1.1 -> 1.3 -> 2.0 all required major rewrites, lots of refactoring, and lots of work. This is not just to get the new features, this is just to make it compile. Heck, even going from 3.5 to 4.0 will cost MAJOR development time and money because they changed everything around AGAIN.

  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @10:12AM (#32825740)

    That's because they were to hand and were modded down just before I made the reply so were immediately to hand.

    But you see, it's not about disagreeing with my own posts- the fact is the information I provided was simply not redundant and was relevant to the discussion at hand, so was an invalid moderation however you cut it. As TheKidWho pointed out, there isn't a disagree moderation yet people use other mods as that, when the correct course of action should be to not moderate it at all if you can't find a category that fits.

    For what it's worth I actually do agree when some of my posts get modded down, sometimes I'll admit I have been a dick sometimes and could've put things a bit more reasonably. I'm not debating posts where someone has been a dick though, I'm debating posts in general, and seeing TheKidWho's post get modded troll when it blatantly wasn't is one particular example where I disagree.

    Are you suggesting that negative moderations you've received have always been fair, and negative moderations of others posts you've seen have always been fair? Taking a quick look at your posting history, it appears this post got a negative mod unless you posted without karma bonus:

    http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1709000&cid=32810964 [slashdot.org]

    It may not be the most exciting post in the world and I may have disagreed with you personally in the past on some subjects, but even I can see there's little reason to mod this post down, in the worst case they should've just passed on by and not modded at all.

    I mean, even where this thread has gone now for example could well deserve an off-topic mod, which is fair enough- I can accept that, but otherwise what're the options? Should I myself just use my mod points to mod in a partisan manner in future rather than be objective about it too? If Slashdot's mod system stays as is, it's only going to continue to deteriorate even further.

  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Wednesday July 07, 2010 @11:50AM (#32827242)
    Most students now can get Visual Studio for free. And I've used all the IDE's you mentioned at some point or another, and VS would be superior to any of them--even if I had to pay for it. Eclipse and Netbeans are wonky as hell, especially when you're tying to build a GUI.

Think of it! With VLSI we can pack 100 ENIACs in 1 sq. cm.!