MSDN Subscribers Won't Get Expression Web

Expression Web wouldn't be available to subscribers of the Microsoft Development Network (MSDN) and instead must be purchased separately.

Microsoft expects the new Expression Studio design tool suite to change the way developers and designers work together by fostering close collaboration between the two distinct roles.

But Redmond's product rollout strategy has upset some .NET developers. In December, the company announced that Expression Web wouldn't be available to subscribers of the Microsoft Development Network (MSDN) and instead must be purchased separately for $99.

MSDN subscriptions, which can cost thousands of dollars per year, include licenses for popular Microsoft products ranging from Visual Studio and SQL Server to Exchange and Office. Robert McLaws, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based .NET developer who runs, contends that many Web developers double as designers, making access to Expression important to these MSDN subscribers.

"What they seem to have lost is that quite often, developers are jacks-of-all-trades," McLaws says. "It seems like the Developer Division has lost their way on this one."

McLaws helped fan the flames in December with a post to excoriating the company's decision. That led to a spirited discussion on the site that even drew the participation of Microsoft official Forest Key, the director of Web and Client User Experience Platform Marketing, Microsoft Developer Division.

Key defended Microsoft's decision, writing that it followed extensive market research. He contended that Expression Web falls outside the purview of the development market.

"[W]e are actively working on both ends of the continuum -- the very 'designer' oriented toolset for focusing on the look and behavior of a Web site using modern CSS techniques for both styling and layout (Expression Web), and at the same time, the more traditional 'development' focus on data integration, deployment and functionality (the emphasis historically for 'developers' and our Visual Studio product line)," Key wrote as a comment on the site.

McLaws, a former Microsoft MVP, remains miffed. "At $100, it's almost like a slap in the face," he says. "If you're employed by a large company, you can go and expense it. But for the other people out there, it was an opportunity wasted for [Microsoft] to go out and say, this is why Microsoft rocks and Adobe sucks."

Microsoft isn't saying much about the Expression Web outcry. In response to our queries, a company spokesperson provided the following statement: "Expression Studio is part of a new product line from Microsoft that is specifically created for a distinct customer segment: creative design professionals. We recognize that many developers and MSDN subscribers may have an interest in the Expression tools, and for that reason there will be convenient and reasonably priced options for developers to purchase full licenses of Expression products."

Despite his displeasure, McLaws says Expression Web is a solid product with a solid future. "I think as a [version 1.0] product it's very strong. I think you're still going to need Adobe right now, but after this [version] is when it's going to get interesting."

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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