Monday, July 05, 2004

Microsoft seeking mind-share with free versions of its tools

I don't really know how many marketing folks at Microsoft read this blog, but back in April I wrote that Microsoft appears to be losing mind-share among developers, partly because free open source databases and tools are enticing young developers away from Microsoft.

Now, it appears that Microsoft is doing something about it. Last week, Microsoft announced that it is offering free "express" versions of its Visual Studio tools and SQL Server database to encourage learning and use by new developers. Express products include:
  • Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition, a lightweight tool for building dynamic Web sites and Web services,

  • Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition, a streamlined programming tool for learning how to build Windows applications,

  • Express Editions of Visual C#, Visual C++, and Visual J#, which are tools for learning the fundamentals of specific programming languages, and

  • SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, an entry-level database.
In the past, Microsoft did offer some free versions, such as Microsoft SQL Server Desktop Edition (MSDE), but those tools generally had a number of restrictions to make them less attractive than the new Express editions of these products.

Clearly this move by Microsoft is aimed at the threat of open source tools. The Microsoft press release announcing the Express products refers repeatedly to "students," "hobbyists," and "entry-level developers," the constituency most likely to be enticed away by open source tools. Nevertheless, it is a welcome move. It not only helps young developers that are trying to learn new skills. It also helps small IT shops and small consulting firms that may not be able to afford full developer licenses for all of their staff. In addition to the initial license fee, being able to get by with fewer licenses also reduces software maintenance fees in the future, which is a sore point among many Microsoft customers.

You can learn more about the free versions at Microsoft's FAQ page on the Express products.

Related posts
Microsoft .NET losing mind-share?
PeopleSoft CEO compares Microsoft .NET to ... asbestos?
Microsoft Software Assurance: no bang for big bucks
Customers pushing back against Microsoft licensing program
Microsoft-sponsored study on Win2K vs. Linux is NOT all good news for Microsoft

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