A lead product manager says Microsoft nixed the possibility of adding free Express versions of its Visual Studio toolset to the Vista operating system, partly for antitrust considerations.
Microsoft considered including its Visual Studio Express tools in the upcoming Vista release of the Windows operating system, but the software giant nixed the idea for a variety of reasons.
In a blog post on Aug. 10, Dan Fernandez, lead product manager for Visual Studio Express, said that in looking for ways to make Visual Studio more accessible to developers, the company considered bundling the free Express editions with Vista.
However, for several reasons, including possible legal ramifications, the need to meet the Vista quality bar, setup, localization and the fact that there are multiple Express editions, the company decided not to bundle the technology, Fernandez said in his blog.
Meanwhile, rather than add the Express tools to the operating system, Microsoft is considering other options.
"The good enough alternative is to have customers just go to MSDN [Microsoft Developer Network] to download Express," Fernandez said, noting that Vista will already include Visual Basic and C# compilers.
Fernandez said a "better solution" would be to add a link in the Start and Programs menu to go directly to MSDN and get the Express tools.
"The thinking here would be that its easy to do and whenever we ship Visual Studio Express Orcas, we can update the link to get the latest version so customers would have more dynamic software," he said.
Another alternative would be allowing OEMs like Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Compaq to include the Express versions of Visual Studio on the PCs they sell, Fernandez said.
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"The OEM channel gets past all of the issues" that Microsoft weighed in deciding against bundling the Express tools into Vista, Fernandez said.
"You could see how a company like Dell could include VS Express in their high-end gaming rigs with some cool custom game-modder content," Fernandez said.
For example, "Get the Dell XPS M170 with custom Unreal Tournament Modder content," Fernandez said, mimicking a possible Dell ad. "Gamers get value in that they want a screaming fast dev box and we would provide free tutorials, videos, etc., to get started developing or modding games."
The OEM alternative falls in with the 12 tenets for Windows development that Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., announced in July.
Indeed, the first of the 12 tenets to promote competition relates to OEMs and the installation of any software on the PCs they ship.
That tenet reads: "Computer manufacturers and customers are free to add any software to PCs that run Windows. More broadly, every computer manufacturer and customer is free to install and promote any operating system, any application and any Web service on PCs that run Windows."
Read more here about Microsofts 12 development principles and what they mean for the industry.
Fernandez said one of the key reasons Microsoft decided not to put the Express versions on Visual Studio into Vista was legal issues.
"Im not going into details, but this is a deal-breaker if you will," Fernandez said of the legal ramifications.
This is a reference to the antitrust issues Microsoft has been dealing with for years stemming from the companys inclusion of various technologies, such as a browser or media player, into the Windows operating system. The inclusion of its development tools, even free ones, would be another point of contention for Microsofts competitors and would likely draw interest from antitrust authorities.
Another of the big concerns was setup, Fernandez said. "Without getting into the weeds of why this is, the short answer is that Windows [has] a wholly different setup (and therefore servicing model) than Visual Studio does," he wrote in his blog. "Servicing would basically be *way* too much work for the benefit."
And the issue of versions only brings in a whole host of other questions, he said. "There are five different versions of Visual Studio Express," Fernandez said. "Do we include all? Whos our customer? Which version are they most likely to use? Do we include Web tools? Which version of Vista does it make sense to integrate in?"
However, Fernandez said the best solution for Microsoft would be to simply include the Express tools in the operating system. Yet he acknowledged that "there are many folks who do not want cruft in their operating system."
Yet, Microsoft is still "hoping to get developer tools in as many places as possible," Fernandez said.
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