Microsoft.Data and Positioning

time to read 4 min | 770 words

I just read a very insightful post from Evan Nagle about the topic. In it, Evan hit a key point:

Technically (and commercially) speaking, Microsoft has a slew of perfectly legitimate reasons for splattering the landscape with these "watered down" technologies. But, culturally speaking, it's painful to the professional Microsoft developer. It is. Because the Microsoft developer's personal and professional identity is tied up in the Microsoft stack, and that stack is now catering to a bunch of cat ladies and acne-laden teenagers. That's the real issue here.

If Microsoft thinks that they can get the market for bad developers, good for them. But that needs to be highly segmented. It should be clear that going with that route is leading you to a walled garden and that writing real apps this way is not good. The best comparison I can think of is Access apps in the 90s. There was a clear separation between “just wanna write some forms over data app over the weekend” and “I want to build a real application”. When you built an app in Access, you had very clear idea about the limitations of the application, and you knew that if you wanted something more, it would be a complete re-write.

That was a good thing, because it meant that you could do the quick & dirty things, but when things got messy, you knew that you had to make the jump.

The problem with things like Microsoft.Data is that there is no such line in the sand. And when you call it “Microsoft.*” you give it a seal of approval for everything. And when you have a piece of code that is explicitly designed to support bad coding practices, it is like peeing in the pool. If there is only one pool, it is going to affect everyone. There wouldn’t be nearly as much objection if it was called WebMatrix.Data, because that would clearly put it in someone else’s pool, and it that turn into a putrid swamp, I don’t really care.

There is another issue here, and it is not just that the community is afraid of inheriting horrible Microsoft.Data projects. It is much more than that.

Salary data is from the UK, because that is the first site I found with the numbers)

Now, I really can’t think of a good technical reason why VB.Net programmers are paid so much less, but those data points match what I have seen about salaries for developers in both positions.

In other words, VB.Net developers are getting paid a lot less for doing the same job.

Now, why is that? Is it because of the legacy of VisualBasic still haunts the VB guys? Because there is still the impression that VB is a toy language? I don’t know, but I think that at least in part, that is true. And that is what happen when a platform gets a reputation for being messy. People know in their bones that building stuff there is going to be costly, because maintaining this stuff is so hard.

Microsoft has repeatedly stated that they are after the people who currently go to PHP. Let me do the same comparison:

I don’t like those numbers. I really don’t like them.

Put simply, if Microsoft attempts to make the .NET platform more approachable for the PHP guys, it is also going to devalue the entire platform. I am pretty sure that this is something that they don’t want. Having a lot of hobbist programmer but fewer professional ones is going to hurt the Microsoft eco system.

Microsoft, if you want to create a PHP haven in the .NET world, that is great, but make sure that it is completely isolated, because otherwise you are going to hurt everyone who has a commercial stake in your platform.

I think that there is a lot of sense from commercial point of view in WebMatrix, but it should be clear that this isn’t .NET programming, this is WebMatrix programming. So if Microsoft succeed in gaining market share for this, it won’t be the .NET developers who would suddenly look at a 30% less money, it would be WebMatrix developers who would have to carry that stigma.