By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-01-31 Print this article Print

/Cooperation"> In terms of the Microsoft developer ecosystem, how do you balance the competition with partners along with the cooperation with them? Somasegar: Thats always an interesting balance. Because on the one hand any time we build a new tool or a new piece of software, you always think about "Hey, what does the competition look like here?" And a lot of times the same people who are our partners also compete with us in one dimension or another, so how do we handle that kind of thing? We always think about it and sometimes deeply agonize about that before we make decisions.
Just to give you one example … This happened probably about 18 to 24 months ago, which was about the time inside Microsoft that we decided we were going to get into the enterprise tools space. So, prior to that, wed been thinking about that being the customers demand for a cohesive set of enterprise tools targeted at team development. People wanted these tools to really be integrated. And if you talk to large customers theyll tell you they have a variety of solutions from other vendors and a lot of them have homegrown solutions, so they really wanted an integrated set of solutions. And we thought that that was a place we could get into and add value for our customers.
But then when we started thinking about this area, we said it was a place where a lot of our partners and competitors were already doing work. So the dilemma we had was how do we get into this and still do the right thing by our partners? So we decided to bring in about a 150 to 160 other companies—people who we thought were involved in the enterprise tools space—and brought them into Microsoft at Redmond [Wash.] and said, "Well give you a complete briefing of what our plans are in this area. And youll have at least a two- to two-and-a-half-year lead time because of how long its going to take us to get into this market in a realistic way … so we want to share our plans now with you so that you have a choice. You can make a decision of how you want to play." Because though we are entering this space there is still a ton of opportunity for our partners to bring complementary offerings to what we are doing to fill out the suite. We always think about how do we effectively and fairly compete with our competitors, and at the same time give them opportunity to partner with us, so that together we can build great products. Were there any protests about your encroaching on their space or anything like that? Somasegar: So far, from what I understand, I dont think weve had complaints from anybody, particularly because we really opened the kimono and shared with them what we were thinking about and have along the way given updates. Most of the partners that I talked to who are in this space really feel good about this, and they actually feel excited about what they can do to continue adding value for the customers with the tools they are doing. And they feel that with the extensible platform that were are building in VSTS [Visual Studio Team System], they can add more and they feel good about the business model that they have, and they feel good about the value they are going to add. So I havent heard any complaints. Sridharan: Its not just about Microsoft demonstrating some kind of leadership; its about responsible leadership, thats the key. And 20 or so months ago when we brought all these partners out to campus and we said this is what were doing in terms of lifecycle tools, we laid it out there and said this is where we think the industry is going wrong with life-cycle tools, theyre not very well-integrated, they wont be able to share data. … And we laid it out for them and said this is the problem and the company that can fix it is us. Were going to deliver a platform, were going to build great life-cycle tools and top of that platform and that platform will be extensible. And were telling you a good two to two-and-a-half years before we actually ship, so that you can make any kind of business decisions and technology decisions as well. Somasegar: And the one data point that I can look at to see how our partners are viewing our entry into this space is looking at how much they are willing to take a bet on VSTS and be able to deliver complementary offerings. We already have a number of partners that have committed to working with us on this and build additional tools to round out the offering. And over the next several months youre going to see more announcements from us as we make progress in terms of getting the partner ecosystem up and ready so that by the time we launch Visual Studio Team System at the end of the summer well have a strong set of partners and offerings from them that will complement what were doing. Sridharan: And thats certainly at the high end. If you look across the Visual Studio product line, we intend to build out the entire partner ecosystem up and down the product line. If you look at [Visual Studio] Express, we have Amazon and eBay as content partners and our goal is to get as many new people involved in programming as possible. New people dont want to program for the sake of programming. If I ask a random person on the street, "Do you want to learn to program a computer?" theyll go, "No, The Apprentice is on. Id rather go watch that," right? But if we give them compelling content that attracts them, then we can accidentally teach them how to program. And that is the goal. And we will build out the entire partner ecosystem, from the bottom with the Express line all the way up to Team System. Next Page: New partnerships.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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