Developers' Take on Microsoft's Web Tech
Last week, Microsoft released a preview of WebMatrix, a free, lightweight Web tool for building ASP.NET and PHP apps outside of Visual Studio (and its free Express counterpart, Visual Web Developer). Curiously, WebMatrix has the same name as an earlier Microsoft project with a similar purpose that is now defunct.
The new syntax (code-named Razor) and lack of a visual designer in WebMatrix indicate that Microsoft is focused on the PHP and open source crowd, observed Todd Anglin, who is curious to see how Microsoft packages the technology when it is past the beta stage.
Anglin, Telerik's chief evangelist, sees WebMatrix as a bridge to Visual Studio for the open source crowd:
"Obviously, there is an upgrade story in WebMatrix and it reaches out to people who are taking the low friction path toward PHP today and gives them a Microsoft ASP.NET-oriented solution. I think it will be interesting to see how it affects the existing Microsoft .NET community. Certainly, as you build tools that are easier and low barrier, reaching out to communities that don't use .NET today, it is bound to have some impact on your existing community."
In my blog about the WebMatrix announcement, I asked if Visual Studio, Visual Web Developer, Expression Web, WebMatrix, the assorted ASP.NET frameworks and even SharePoint, offered too many choices to ASP.NET developers as Redmond casts a wider .NET.
Long time developers, who weighed in, appeared comfortable with the company's expanding toolset. John didn't see my point:
Most seasoned devs understand the importance of each of those [products] and they are not all meant to achieve the same goal, what is your point in listing all those products together? Each of those products has gone through many years of evolution and they are worth their price--personal opinion. If they were open source products based on standards I would argue that their rate of evolution would have been several orders of magnitude slower. I'm glad MS has these products, and that their pay model helps evolve them.
Lonnie was excited about what WebMatrix offered:
"I think WebMatrix is great. I do a lot of work for charities and WebMatrix allows me to buy hosting without having to buy SQL. Also WebMatrix will allow [me to] feel more comfortable passing my code to others."
JP wasn't thrilled with the idea of a lightweight tool that could attract non-professional developers:
"I cut my teeth with Visual Basic, so I have a lot of experience with tools oriented towards the non-professional. The thought makes me cringe. While I like the idea of empowering people, most [people] who use tools like this don't have any business creating public websites with them."
David also recalled Microsoft's decisions around Visual Basic and viewed Redmond's current Web strategy as somewhat adrift in "uncharted waters":
"Microsoft has, as a matter of its emergence and presence, enjoyed no small ability to dictate much of the direction of the programming community. They blurred the distinctions between (and wars among) what might be considered "real" developers versus "pretenders" back in the Visual Basic "classic" and early C++/ATL-based programming eras. By covering both bases, they substantively guaranteed their own success. However, twenty years later, Microsoft no longer controls the agenda, and when it comes to their web development strategy, it is as muddled as their corporate direction on the Web itself.
"Now, Microsoft finds itself in what might [be] construed as uncharted waters. It no longer dictates terms, it responds to shifting winds and tries as best it can to remain anchored to its Internet Explorer, Office, and .NET enterprise framework roots. At the same time, however, Microsoft finds itself trying to spread itself in multiple directions, hoping it happens to be aimed in the right direction when the market points a certain way. They've tried to embrace a little bit of everything, from cloud computing to semi-open-source software, from standards-based web development to one that seems still beholden, at least in part, to its COM-based roots."
Our Redmond Review columnist Andrew Brust has witnessed a lot over the years as a Microsoft developer and sees WebMatrix as a "radical departure" from the current state of ASP.NET and Visual Studio. He applauds what he calls the "return to simplicity." Andrew provides an excellent perspective on the history of Microsoft's dev tools and how we got here in his Redmond Diary blog
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on Microsoft's Web development strategy. How will WebMatrix affect the existing Microsoft .NET community? Drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by Kathleen Richards on 07/13/2010 at 12:54 PM