It sometimes seems like we’ve been making the case for developer importance forever, though I’m sure the actual span falls just a bit short of that. However long it’s been, however, it’s been a staple of our presentations going back a long while now. It is, for example, the underlyng tenet that our Bottom Up Marketing presentation (Version 1 ODF/PPT, Version 2 ODF/PPT) – delivered to the Eclipse folks on several occasions as well as a few other audiences – is built on.
It should be no surprise, then, that my keynote at OSCON will begin at this point and explore the implications. The focus of the talk there, it being OSCON, will be on the developer impacts, but I think there will be plenty of room before and after to delve into what precisely that means for vendors.
What might be a surprise, however, is the identity of the vendor I’ve most recently cited as validation of our theory: Microsoft. As Cote mentioned, he and I had the opportunity to attend what turned out to be a very interesting analyst summit that coincided with Microsoft’s TechEd. The show floor there, incidentally, seemed to be far more populated than the one at LinuxWorld East a couple of months back; not taking shots or drawing conclusions, just interesting. While talking with some of the Microsoft execs there, we happened to get onto the thread of developer importance, and I had no qualms about lumping Microsoft even with free and open source alternatives.
While the normal datapoints I refer to when attempting to build the case that developers have in fact assumed control come from the more common mainstream open source projects – Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, or Eclipse – I think it’s equally the case that Microsoft, once upon a time, made its way into enterprises via developer love and attention. It’s difficult to perceive that in the context of IT shops as they are today, in which Microsoft commands considerable enterprise attention and dollars, but time was that real enterprise computing and infrastructure – be those operating systems, databases, or web servers – was solely the province of non-Microsoft technologies. And while those areas have clearly performed differently, it can’t be questioned that Windows 2000 / Server 2003, SQL Server, and IIS play critical roles in infrastructure. And that’s not even getting into the tools market, where the attention paid to developers has paid off with the IDE with perhaps the most marketshare and arguably the best development experience.
Fact is that if there’s one thing that Microsoft has done consistently right over the years, it’s lavishing attention on their development community. They haven’t been perfect at it – no one has – but they’ve done it as well as anyone. And I personally don’t believe that Microsoft has arrived at where it is today via a top down, CIO focused approach any more than the LAMP stack did.
The real questions are then: what does this teach us about technology adoption today, and how is free and open source going further even than Microsoft did (and does) to meet developer needs?