.NET Developers Applaud Microsoft's Open Moves
While Microsoft's announcement yesterday
that it will publish key APIs and share its communications protocols was met with skepticism by the European Commission and other critics, .NET developers we talked with welcomed the step that Redmond had defiantly resisted until now.
Microsoft said it is moving quickly to release the APIs and other documentation of Vista, Windows Server and SQL Server. As word of Microsoft's announcement spread last night in New York during the local NYC.NET Developer Group meeting, attendees applauded the company's moves.
"I think it's going to go a long way, I hope so," said Michelle Cmorey, division director for application development services at Robert Half International, during opening remarks at the meeting. "I think it makes Microsoft's products more marketable, and I think that it makes your skills more marketable as well."
Kevin Hoffman, a developer at New York-based trading exchange Liquidnet Holdings Inc., said he believes the move suggests the influence of Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, has finally come to bare as Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates gets ready to move out of his day-to-day role at the company.
"Stuff like this makes me wish Bill had quit sooner," said Hoffman. "Obviously this is what Ray Ozzie wanted to do from the beginning. You keep seeing all of these blog posts from people saying, ‘Where is Ray Ozzie; why isn't he doing keynotes?' Maybe it's because he is working."
Opportunities for Developers
Hoffman commented that this will not only transform Microsoft but will open new opportunities for developers who want their proprietary or open source applications to work with .NET, Windows and other environments tied to Microsoft's software. It could also facilitate the development of non-Windows applications connecting to Windows servers and vice versa.
"There are some Linux clients linked to Microsoft servers that people have written that are essentially the product of reverse engineering, and every time Microsoft makes a change, there's a big risk that Linux clients will go belly up," Hoffman said. "But if the protocols are public, it's a safer bet to write code that can talk to that server."
Other attendees said they were not surprised by Microsoft's move because the company was already going in that direction.
"I wasn't shocked at all when I heard this, it's a continuation of what they've been doing," said Dan Galvez, managing partner of Hedgehog Development, a Holbrook, N.Y.-based Microsoft Gold Certified Partner.
"I think we will see better software," he continued. "We will see more homogeneous environments between Microsoft's stuff, Oracle technologies and other platform providers. The software industry will be able to develop better integration."
Edwin Woo, president of iNetvisors, a New York consulting firm that works with financial services firms, agreed. Woo said Microsoft has historically been secretive and protective of its intellectual property but had begun softening its stance by offering so-called "trade secret licenses."
With yesterday's move though, Microsoft has removed significant barriers, Woo said. "It is a big deal," he said. "It opens up and makes it easier for people to write software. A lot of corporate developers who want to write their own utilities and interface with the operating system will find it beneficial to use these open APIs."
A Nod to Regulators?
Microsoft officials denied yesterday that the European Commission's stance against the company forced its hand. Indeed, nearly a decade ago, when the United States Justice Department was asked to consider the divestiture of Microsoft's operating systems and applications businesses, Redmond was unrelenting in its push to hold its ground.
"Certainly Microsoft has changed and the market has changed," said Burton Group CEO Jamie Lewis during a telephone interview. Despite Microsoft's insistence to the contrary, Lewis believes the company decided it had to appease the EU and U.S. regulators.
"One has to also think that this can't be totally coincidental with their attempt to take over Yahoo," Lewis said. "If they're going to get regulatory pushback on that, they're trying to smooth things out and see if they can push things forward."
Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of ADTmag.com and news editor of Visual Studio Magazine.