Developers Balk at VS2010 Price Points

In the wake of the VS2010 beta 2 release last week, Microsoft announced a simplified packaging and pricing scheme for professional developers.

In response to my Deal or No Deal on VS2010 Pricing blog posting last week, all of the readers who weighed in—except one who suggested the free Express options-- had issues with the new packaging scheme. Your verdict: No deal.

Mike of Bloomington said:

"The simplified packaging is appreciated. Hefty price increases are tough to deal with. We get our MDSN Premium through an Enterprise agreement for all our MS software. The cost of this agreement is already significant for our regional hospital."

Paul of Los Angeles commented:

"Microsoft is making a big mistake pricing Visual Studio this way. This would have been the perfect opportunity to get more developers on board with .NET and WPF. Instead, they're going to lose more developers to the open source crowd, there will be fewer Windows 7 apps available for consumers, and Windows Mobile will fade away as Apple grows with their iPhone apps. Such a shame. I really like working with Visual Studio, but I think it's time [to] open my horizons perhaps."

Anthony commented:

"Not all users of Visual Studio are developers. For example I'm involved in engineering and programs are written by one individual (engineer) for in-house use. The programs are primarily functional with no frills. Any Visual Studio beyond Standard would be a waste of money. Sorry, there will be no upgrade."

And several readers who preferred anonymity weighed in:

"I develop productivity apps to help employees do their jobs more efficiently. With the price increases, I do not think our CIO will be able to show an ROI for the upgrade. We do not develop applications for resale, we are just a small company that is trying to stay in business."

"This is a huge disappointment to me as I have been looking to enter the Microsoft development world from the Open Source and Mac side - where IDEs and deployment costs are minimum to none compared to this. Develop and deploy apps for iPhone: $100 (w/ a Mac). Develop and deploy apps for Windows Mobile: $1300?!?! Really Microsoft... is this how you hope to continue dominance in the market?"

"The whole VS package is rapidly turning .NET programmers into a hide-bound society of technicians trapped in an endless cycle of adaptation to new MS approaches, instead of helping them become ever more skillful and productive in design, architecture, and implementation…. I totally agree with Steve Forte [who voted for one version of Visual Studio] -- MS is losing its appeal fast, and won't capture new generations of excited and productive developers by pricing them out of the game with idiotically complicated packaging schemes. Successful marketing is based on making it *easy* for the customer, but that principle seems too simple for the complexity-addicts at MS."

"There is always the Express version for those on the way up (or down). That is priced just right (to kill the market for competitors (if there were any))."

For people who need more than what is offered in the Express editions (which traditionally have not supported add-ins or extensions) but don't want to fork over $800 or more for VS2010 Professional, Microsoft's Polita Paulus in the Developer Division offers hope that more promotions may appear around the launch. In response to a blog reader's query about the upgrade plight of VS Standard users, Paulus wrote:

"We will have a price promotion at launch to help reduce the costs for existing Standard customers, but we aren't announcing specifics at this time."

In the same comment thread, Doug Seven, the senior product manager of Visual Studio Team System, explained what is meant when Microsoft says all VS2010 users will have access to Team Foundation Server 2010, which has basic, advanced and custom installation options:

"Team Foundation Server 2010 will be included in the MSDN subscription that comes with Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Premium, Ultimate, and Test Elements. This copy of Team Foundation Server is licensed for unlimited development and test use (as is all MSDN software) and licensed for one production deployment. These MSDN subscriptions also include one CAL….

Team Foundation Server will also be available in retail for around $500 USD and will include a license term allowing up to five (5) named users without CALs to use Team Foundation Server. To grow to more than five users, simply buy CALs for the new users. This enables small teams of five or fewer to get up and running on Team Foundation Server for as little as $500 USD."

Is Microsoft out of touch with today's economic realities? Express your thoughts on Visual Studio's pricing and the "new normal," which at many dev shops includes mandates to use less expensive or open source alternatives. Or drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/27/2009 at 1:15 PM64 comments


Microsoft Goofs on Code7 Tie-ins

Guest blogger David Ramel discovers 7 blunders by Microsoft's marketing team.

Is the Microsoft marketing department slipping?

Take a look at the Code 7 contest for programmers developing Windows 7 applications.

So far, so good – the name definitely ties into Windows 7.

But a $17,777 grand prize? Where did that come from? I guess the economic calamity is even hitting Redmond – it obviously should have been $77,777. Or even $70,000. Or even $7,000. But $17,777?

Memo to Microsoft: it’s Windows 7, not Windows 17.

And why 6 Windows 7 application scenarios, instead of 7? And 5 target Windows 7 technologies, instead of 7?

Come on, this is Marketing 101 stuff – low hanging fruit.

They got the 7 finalists right (but it was kind of humorous to see how they struggled to come up with 7 geographical regions – take a look at what they came up with here.

But they mandated 3-minute explanatory videos of the entries. Why not let the coders explore their creativity and produce 7-minute videos?

And the grand prize winner should have been able to meet with 7 members of the Win7 dev team, and gotten to stay in Redmond for 7 days.

Of course, the gallery of submitted apps should have consisted of 7 pages, or better yet 77 pages of 7 entries each.

Notice that I listed 7 blunders. See how easy this is, Microsoft?

The opportunities for 7 tie-ins simply abound. That sentence I just wrote was 7 words long. Somebody stop me.

OK, express your 7 notions of what they missed below or drop me a line. The lucky winner – chosen by me – will receive a $7 cash prize. Or maybe 7 winners will receive $1 each.

I know, $1 instead of $7 contradicts everything I just wrote.

Times are tough, you know.

David Ramel is Features Editor for MSDN Magazine. He can be reached at dramel@1105media.com.

Posted by David Ramel on 10/23/2009 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Touching Developers Key to Windows 7

A beautiful day in New York City marked Microsoft's retail launch of Windows 7. Five-year-old Kylie, star of the "I'm a PC" commercials welcomed Steve Ballmer onstage at the Skylight Studios.

Most of the Windows 7 features demonstrated today were similar to those first shown last year at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, reports Jeff Schwartz, RDN news editor, who attended the event. An interesting twist was the emphasis on Windows 7 multitouch capabilities. In addition to a surprise partnership with Amazon to support its Kindle e-reader platform on touched-based devices, OEMs such as Acer, Fujitsu and others plan to ship tablet-based laptops that support capacitive-based touch functionality.

As Jeff Schwartz reports in his article, Windows 7 Launches With a Touch of Kindle:

Forrester Research analyst Frank Gillett was among those who looked at the new Kindle app in the partner pavilion. He said the success Microsoft has in promoting touch will depend on the developer ecosystem. "Touch is great, but Web sites and applications will have to be optimized to support numerous different environments," Gillett said.

Next month's PDC09 in Los Angeles will serve as the official launch of Windows 7 for developers. On the docket, attendees can learn more about developing and running existing apps on the new operating system in numerous sessions, testing labs and a free Windows 7 Developer Bootcamp.

At PDC Microsoft will host a free Windows 7 Developer Center for testing applications, Nov. 16 - 19. Interested developers can pre-register for 1 hour timeslots, or take their chances during the show. Microsoft's Yochay Kiriaty offers guidance on how to qualify for logo certification, prepare for the labs and what to expect in his Windows 7 Labs @ PDC post: .

"Applications can be loaded onto a secure Windows 7 test platform in a private developer lab environment for Logo testing and submission. Our Windows Applications Developer Consultants can also help with Windows Compatibility questions or offer specific guidance for how you can make your application shine on Windows 7. You can pre-book a time slot right away, book a time when you get to the PDC, or just stop by Room 504/505."

Windows 7 development, touch-based laptops, Kindle and you: today's news suggests we may be turning the page on touch-enabled apps. Are Microsoft's Windows Touch Developer Resources adequate? Express your views on Windows 7 multitouch, tell us what you're working on or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/22/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Deal or No Deal on New VS2010 Pricing

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 and .NET 4 Beta 2 are generally available on Wednesday. MSDN subscribers got access to the downloads on Monday, Oct. 19. With the latest release comes news from Microsoft about a simplified packaging scheme for VS2010, updates to MSDN, and promotions to facilitate upgrades at the March 22, 2010 launch.

The simplified SKU lineup is down to four: Visual Studio 2010 Professional with or without MSDN, Visual Studio 2010 Premium with MSDN, and Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN.

This should be welcome news for developers--and we've heard this complaint from just about everybody—it was unclear which functionality was in which SKU. The "gotchas" after people downloaded or licensed the wrong versions, weren't fun. Microsoft has heard your pleas even though some questions linger.

Visual Studio Standard edition is no longer, starting with VS2010. Does this mean that the functionality in the Express tools will be expanded? That would be a deal, especially if these free tools supported Windows Mobile and SharePoint development. For now VS2010 beta 2 does not support smart device development. The SharePoint 2010 Designer will be free to licensed SharePoint users.

If VS2008 Standard users need to upgrade to the VS2010 Professional edition, which is $799 without MSDN, roughly $500 more, that's a steep price increase. Under the new scheme, Professional pricing remains the same at $1,199 with MSDN for new licenses and $799 with MSDN for renewals.

Visual Studio 2010 Team System is getting repackaged as a Premium offer, which rolls up most of the functionality in the former Team Suite editions -- Developer, Database, Test and Architect -- into a single SKU, which is $5,469 for new licenses and $2,299 for renewals. The new Premium package with MSDN is comparable to the suggested pricing of a single Visual Studio 2008 Team Suite edition, according to Microsoft. That sounds like a deal.

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Edition is the "comprehensive ALM suite," formerly Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite with MSDN Premium, which consists of multiple developer licenses and Team Foundation Server.

The Ultimate Edition pricing, which is $11,924 new and $3,841 for renewals, is an increase of 9 percent over VSTS 2008, says Dave Mendlen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft. "We did that because we've added a collection of deep architectural tools that transfer your architecture from whiteboard to living assets," he explains. The Ultimate Edition also offers new tools for team testing and an integrated development environment. "In effect, what we are saying is, 'there is a tremendous amount of research and development that has gone into this particular box so we've made a slight price increase."

The good news is that Team Foundation Server 2010, upon release, is included in all versions of Visual Studio 2010, according to a blog post by S. "Soma" Somasegar, senior vice president of the Developer Division:

"For small teams that need only core development features such as source control, bug tracking, and build automation, TFS Basic offers a simple, streamlined install and runs on server or client machines. Test Elements users will notice a more intuitive and responsive user interface."

Finally, MSDN Premium subscribers with licenses for Visual Studio Professional or Team Suite SKUs prior to March 22, 2010 can step up to a higher level of Visual Studio at the time of the VS 2010 launch for their current rate as part of the Ultimate Offer promotion. When the MSDN contract expires, developers can decide if they want to continue to use the higher end SKU and pay the higher price.

"What this means is that customers will get a lot more software than what they are paying for at the time of our launch," says Mendlen.

Microsoft may be packing more into offerings at the same price, but upgrading development environments every three years isn't cheap or easy, despite the great tools. The company offers DreamSpark, BizSpark and WebSpark programs to help qualified students, startups and Web developers get access to their tools and platforms. What more can they do?

"I think that there should be just one version of Visual Studio, it includes everything, and it should be $99, free for students," writes Steve Forte, chief strategy officer at Telerik, in an email. "This would get more installs for sure."

What's your take on the new VS2010 packaging and pricing scheme? Deal or no deal? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/20/2009 at 1:15 PM35 comments


Deal or No Deal on New VS2010 Pricing

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2 and .NET 4 Beta 2 are generally available on Wednesday. MSDN subscribers got access to the downloads on Monday, Oct. 19. With the latest release comes news from Microsoft about a simplified packaging scheme for VS2010, updates to MSDN, and promotions to facilitate upgrades at the March 22, 2010 launch.

The simplified SKU lineup is down to four: Visual Studio 2010 Professional with or without MSDN, Visual Studio 2010 Premium with MSDN, and Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN.

This should be welcome news for developers--and we've heard this complaint from just about everybody—it was unclear which functionality was in which SKU. The "gotchas" after people downloaded or licensed the wrong versions, weren't fun. Microsoft has heard your pleas even though some questions linger.

Visual Studio Standard edition is no longer, starting with VS2010. Does this mean that the functionality in the Express tools will be expanded? That would be a deal, especially if these free tools supported Windows Mobile and SharePoint development. For now VS2010 beta 2 does not support smart device development. The SharePoint 2010 Designer will be free to licensed SharePoint users.

If VS2008 Standard users need to upgrade to the VS2010 Professional edition, which is $799 without MSDN, roughly $500 more, that's a steep price increase. Under the new scheme, Professional pricing remains the same at $1,199 with MSDN for new licenses and $799 with MSDN for renewals.

Visual Studio 2010 Team System is getting repackaged as a Premium offer, which rolls up most of the functionality in the former Team Suite editions -- Developer, Database, Test and Architect -- into a single SKU, which is $5,469 for new licenses and $2,299 for renewals. The new Premium package with MSDN is comparable to the suggested pricing of a single Visual Studio 2008 Team Suite edition, according to Microsoft. That sounds like a deal.

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Edition is the "comprehensive ALM suite," formerly Visual Studio Team System 2008 Team Suite with MSDN Premium, which consists of multiple developer licenses and Team Foundation Server.

The Ultimate Edition pricing, which is $11,924 new and $3,841 for renewals, is an increase of 9 percent over VSTS 2008, says Dave Mendlen, senior director of developer marketing at Microsoft. "We did that because we've added a collection of deep architectural tools that transfer your architecture from whiteboard to living assets," he explains. The Ultimate Edition also offers new tools for team testing and an integrated development environment. "In effect, what we are saying is, 'there is a tremendous amount of research and development that has gone into this particular box so we've made a slight price increase."

The good news is that Team Foundation Server 2010, upon release, is included in all versions of Visual Studio 2010, according to a blog post by S. "Soma" Somasegar, senior vice president of the Developer Division:

"For small teams that need only core development features such as source control, bug tracking, and build automation, TFS Basic offers a simple, streamlined install and runs on server or client machines. Test Elements users will notice a more intuitive and responsive user interface."

Finally, MSDN Premium subscribers with licenses for Visual Studio Professional or Team Suite SKUs prior to March 22, 2010 can step up to a higher level of Visual Studio at the time of the VS 2010 launch for their current rate as part of the Ultimate Offer promotion. When the MSDN contract expires, developers can decide if they want to continue to use the higher end SKU and pay the higher price.

"What this means is that customers will get a lot more software than what they are paying for at the time of our launch," says Mendlen.

Microsoft may be packing more into offerings at the same price, but upgrading development environments every three years isn't cheap or easy, despite the great tools. The company offers DreamSpark, BizSpark and WebSpark programs to help qualified students, startups and Web developers get access to their tools and platforms. What more can they do?

"I think that there should be just one version of Visual Studio, it includes everything, and it should be $99, free for students," writes Steve Forte, chief strategy officer at Telerik, in an email. "This would get more installs for sure."

What's your take on the new VS2010 packaging and pricing scheme? Deal or no deal? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/20/2009 at 1:15 PM35 comments


SQL Azure Is PDC Ready in CTP 2

The features in the SQL Azure October preview, launched on Wednesday, mirror what is expected in the commercial launch of the cloud database service at PDC next month. This is the second CTP of SQL Azure, the SQL Server component of Microsoft's cloud that was radically changed after it was first announced as part of the Azure Services Platform's SQL Services data technologies in October 2008.

SQL Server Data Services was renamed SQL Data Services, which was under the umbrella of SQL Services. SQL Data Services used a schema-less data model that consisted of geo-located units called authorities housed in Microsoft's data centers. The authorities held containers, which consisted of queryable entities that were made up of properties.

Instead of learning a whole new model, developers wanted a relational database in the cloud and Microsoft changed course, releasing the first SQL Azure CTP in August. Windows Azure also offers unstructured data storage in the form of Blobs up to 50 GB, tables and queues.

"That first SQL Data Services looked like a non-relational data store but it was highly scalable and the plan was to keep adding functionality until we got closer and closer to that relational database model but build on that massive scale thing," said Steve Marx, technical strategist for the Windows Azure team, in an interview in late September. "What we heard resoundingly from customers was that there was a big opportunity for us to be the only ones really who came out and had a really good relational database story in the cloud. And we wanted to get there anyway but there was a shorter path to it and that was to kind of rethink things and start instead with a relational database and to grow in the direction of bigger and bigger scale. So now what we have with SQL Azure, in this first CTP that came out, is something that is a little limited in scale but provides the rich query capabilities that people want in a database."

That limited scale of only 10 GB remains in CTP 2 and presumably the November commercial release, unless Microsoft misses its publicized launch date. According to the SQL Azure Team blog, the October CTP includes the complete PDC feature set and for the first time offers the ability to select and create a Web Edition ($9.99 per month, up to 1 GB of relational data) or Business Edition ($99.99 per month, up to 10 GB). The October CTP adds firewall, bulk insert and more T-SQL support, among other improvements, such as tweaks in the SQL Azure portal.

The latest CTP is hosted on a go-live production cluster that is separate from the machine cluster used by the developer portal. According to the team blog:

"When SQL Azure Database becomes generally available, this environment will automatically roll over into a fully supported production environment and all your databases and data in this environment will be converted into an active subscription to the SQL Azure Database service based on the subscription offer you choose."

Microsoft offered a free trial of SQL Azure in August, which is ongoing through the November launch. On Wednesday, the SQL Azure team reported that "tens-of-thousands" have signed up for the service.

What do you think of Microsoft's decision to change course and start with a relational database with limited scale in the cloud? Have you tried SQL Azure? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/15/2009 at 1:15 PM10 comments


Betting the Server Farm

Less than a week after a new generation of Windows Phones reached retailers' shelves, Microsoft is making the nightly news as the company whose servers crashed and irretrievably lost all of T-Mobile Sidekick customers' address and calendar data. The popular Sidekick cell phones were wiped out if customers turned them off or tried to reboot during a week or longer service outage that started on Oct. 2nd.

The timing couldn't have been worse. The Windows Phone launch on Oct. 6th marked the debut of Windows Mobile 6.5, which includes Windows Marketplace for Mobile, home to about 250 applications. Ironically, Windows Mobile 6.5 users have the option of using the free My Phone service for backing up contacts, messages, videos and other data on a pass protected Web site "in the event of a lost phone."

Microsoft agreed to acquire Danger Inc., the software-as-a-service company that developed the Sidekick apps in February 2008. Unlike Apple's iPhone which frequently syncs with the user's local desktop through iTunes, giving the user the opportunity to store information locally, the SideKick services and My Phone are hosted on remote data servers.

Yesterday, T-Mobile posted an update to its customers on its Web site. It appears that some data may be salvageable:

"We are thankful for your continued patience as Microsoft/Danger continues to work on preserving platform stability and restoring all services for our Sidekick customers. We have made significant progress this past weekend, restoring services to virtually every customer. Microsoft/Danger has teams of experts in place who are working around-the-clock to ensure this stability is maintained.

Regarding those of you who have lost personal content, T-Mobile and Microsoft/Danger continue to do all we can to recover and return any lost information. Recent efforts indicate the prospects of recovering some lost content may now be possible."

Microsoft can only hope that this pr disaster is somehow remedied and fast. Next month, the company is commercializing its cloud computing Windows Azure Platform, a platform as a service, which only runs in the company's own data centers. Despite 99.95 percent service level agreements, outages happen, services go down, but a remote threat of losing corporate data is a bet most companies won't make, even with local backups.

Does Microsoft have a mobile black hole, an image problem or did it cut costs on Sidekick's back-end services and "bet the server farm" on a small staff of junior developers as many bloggers have reported? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/13/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Windows 7: Let's Get It Started

If you are interested in exercising your mind next month, Microsoft is offering a FREE developer bootcamp for Windows 7.

Windows 7 general availability (retail) starts on Oct. 22, with an official launch hosted by Steve Ballmer in New York City. The Windows Vista launch took place in the big apple in January 2007. Can anything match the "Start Me Up" success of Windows 95?

Deep dives into the latest client operating system will be a heavy focus of PDC 09, which starts Nov. 17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Microsoft has announced several Win7 sessions that cover the Windows Performance Toolkit, Windows Touch, Windows Ribbon, advanced graphics (DirectX, Direct3-D 11 and the Windows API CodePack for the .NET Framework.

In late Sept., Microsoft added the free Windows 7 bootcamp on Nov. 16, to its pre-conference roster. Yochay Kiriaty, who writes the Windows 7 blog for developers was blogging about it this week, so there is apparently still room to register. Interested parties need to register through the regular PDC 09 registration site. You can select "pre-conference workshop only" and then choose the free bootcamp at no charge, according to Microsoft.

Windows internals expert Mark Russinovitch, who is a technical fellow in the platform and services division, is among the engineers participating in the all-day workshop. Check out Mark's Pushing the Limits of Windows series of blog posts. Microsoft engineers Landy Wang, and Arun Kishan from the kernel team, Kiriaty and Jaime Rodriguez (WPF) are also among the confirmed speakers.

The Win7 Workshop will also be posted online at some point after PDC 09.

What are your biggest questions or concerns regarding Win7 development? Picks for a Windows 7 theme song? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/08/2009 at 1:15 PM2 comments


Will SourceSafe Users Trade Up?

Kathleen Richards is on assignment putting the wraps on Visual Studio Magazine's cover story so I am filling in for her today.

Down at the Fall VSLive! conference in Orlando, Microsoft kicked off the event by previewing a scaled-down version of its forthcoming Team Foundation Server 2010. The company's new TFS Basic Profile is aimed at answering some key reasons many have not traded up -- they either can't afford the full-blown TFS or they feel it is much more complex than what they are now using (see Microsoft Plans Scaled-Down Team Foundation Server).

Many who work on small teams are still satisfied with Visual SourceSafe, the version control system that's been around since the mid 1990s. Others have migrated to open source alternatives such as CVS or Subversion.

"Microsoft has been losing share because even though they have a better source code control solution than Visual SourceSafe, it costs more and requires a more complex installation," said Andrew Brust, chief of new technology at twentysix New York.

In either case, Microsoft is hoping to bring those who manage small dev teams into the TFS fold, said Matt Carter, Microsoft's director of Visual Studio product  management, who introduced TFS Basic Profile in the opening VSLive! session.

One reason TFS Basic Profile is so appealing, Carter said, is it can run on a desktop PC-based on Windows Vista or Windows. Also it takes just 30 minutes to install, he said. "If you have a machine sitting under your desk and that's been the box you use for source control, you will have more options than you had previously."

While he wouldn't reveal pricing, Carter said it will appeal to those on Visual SourceSafe. "I can tell you that it will be at least as easy and cost effective to get as SourceSafe has been," wrote Microsoft technical fellow Brian Harry, in a blog posting.

Harry was on the team in the early 1990s that created SourceSafe even before Microsoft acquired the company that developed it. He was on the team that developed TFS a decade later. In his blog posting, Harry made the case to trade up. "TFS 2010 represents a huge step forward in making TFS more approachable by smaller teams," he wrote. "With software development technology continuing to advance and SourceSafe slowly looking older, TFS 2010 is a great opportunity for SourceSafe users to look at updating their toolset."


So will you consider trading up? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at jschwartz@1105media.com.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 10/06/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Open Source Strategist Finds Security in the Cloud

Microsoft's open source strategist Sam Ramji finished up his tenure in Redmond last Friday. He spent his last weeks at the company working to establish the CodePlex Foundation, a Microsoft-sponsored, non-profit organization that seeks to facilitate software vendors' participation in open source communities. Ramji is serving as interim president.

In addition to his work for the foundation, Ramji started a job at cloud computing analytics and governance provider Sonoa Systems on Monday, where he will head product strategy and business development. Founded in 2004, Sonoa offers API and cloud management through on-premise software, ServiceNet appliances, or a service hosted on Amazon EC2. Currently, Sonoa Systems is not associated with Windows Azure, or any open source initiatives.

News editor Jeff Schwartz caught up with Ramji this week and learned that promoting cloud interoperability is still a personal point of interest. Ramji shared his thoughts on Azure and the openness of Microsoft's cloud platform.

What are your observations in terms of Azure's early uptake? Will it be a viable alternative to Amazon?

"I think it will be very successful over time. I don't have deep knowledge on usage but what I did see though was in working with leaders like Ray Ozzie and Amitabh Srivastava that they were very open to open source. Over a year ago, when they had asked my team to help them build the PHP integration for Azure, and from what I've seen that work has continued past the initial project that my team at Microsoft delivered, I've seen four PHP SDKs. I think I saw a Ruby SDK not too long ago. I think the clarity that that group has that open source can expand usage and make Azure more broadly used and more useful is pretty clear. I feel that strategy and technology is in good hands."

Will it be an open cloud service or will it be a .NET cloud service that happens to also support open source?

"I think it will just be a cloud service period. You will be able to run .NET services and you will be able to run PHP services, I think it will be non denominational."

Read the full "Exit Interview" with Ramji.

What do you make of Ramji's departure from Microsoft? What steps does Microsoft need to take to ensure that Azure is more than a .NET cloud service? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 10/01/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


Cloudy Battle in Los Angeles: Microturf vs. Googzilla

An epic battle is brewing out West with much more than a lucrative technology contract at stake: Microsoft Office or Google's cloud?

As the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday, Microsoft and Google are bidding for a $7.25 million contract to replace the city of Los Angeles' outdated email system. Los Angeles put out a call for bids in 2008. "Google Apps got the nod because city administrators believed it would be cheaper and less labor-intensive," writes LA Times reporter David Sarno.

We all knew this day of reckoning was coming. For Microsoft, the fight to hold on to its Office base is on. Google Apps, the Web-based office suite that includes the viral Gmail, promises less overhead and potentially big savings to fiscally strapped cities, corporations and college campuses.

In addition to dispatching teams of lobbyists, both Steve Ballmer and Eric Schmidt have offered to put in appearances at city hall, if city officials think it will help, according to a city councilman quoted in the article.

The LA Times article underscores the broader significance of winning these potentially game-changing contracts:

As the battle plays out in executive suites and information technology departments around the U.S., the outcome could determine whether businesses continue to store software and data on their own computers, as most do now, or allow companies such as Google to store it all online in the so-called digital cloud.

"This is a story of two very large companies going head to head in a battle for the future of the heart and soul of the technology world," said David B. Yoffie, a dean and professor of business strategy at the Harvard Business School. "If Google wins, the way that we look at our day-to-day computing will be 100% focused on the cloud."

Issues raised by Microsoft reps and others involved in the fight for fiscal dollars swirl around reliability –- that recent Gmail outage was a godsend -- data security and questioning the actual cost savings. These same concerns will be front and center as developers and their employers evaluate whether to host applications on-premise, off-site or some combination. What strategies should companies employ to make the most of their resources as Microsoft's cloud and others become viable solutions?

Can Microsoft seriously play both sides of the fence in these battles when it is commercializing its own Azure cloud in November? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/29/2009 at 1:15 PM13 comments


WebsiteSpark Targets Open Source

Microsoft launched another 'Spark' program today to help build the developer base for its Web products.

The WebsiteSpark program, which follows DreamSpark for full-time students and BizSpark for software startups, offers free licenses for tools and server applications, along with technical and marketing support from Microsoft and its partner network.

Qualified companies with 10 employees or less will receive three full licenses for Visual Studio 2008 Professional Edition, two licenses for Expression Web and one license for Expression Studio 3, which includes the Expression Blend design software and SketchFlow. WebsiteSpark participants will also receive two production licenses for Windows Web Server 2008 or R2 when available, SQL Server 2008 Web Edition and third-party DotNetPanel to manage their sites.

A major plus in the current economic climate is that the program provides the opportunity to participate in a WebsiteSpark marketplace, promoted by Microsoft, which showcases the products and services of participants.

"One of the things that we recognize--and we have been doing a lot of work on the Web platform as well--is that it is really about helping companies build their business, get customers and make money, whatever size they are," says Lauren Cooney, a group product manager on the Developer Platform & Tools team at Microsoft.

BizSpark, which was launched in November 2008 in 82 countries, has more than 15,000 startups in the program, including Red Beacon Inc., the winner of the TechCrunch 50.

You can read more about WebsiteSpark and the new Web Platform Installer 2.0, also released today in my news article, Microsoft Launches 'Spark' Program for Web Developer and Server Products".

Can these programs help Microsoft counter the threat of open source software? Have you participated in 'Spark'? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at krichards@reddevnews.com

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 09/24/2009 at 1:15 PM1 comments


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