Developers Trust Will Be Hard to Earn

In a recent eWEEK poll asking readers what gave them greatest pause as they contemplated the Visual Studio .Net learning curve, the fear of "undesired coupling between Web standards and Microsoft protocols" quickly surged past 50 percent of th

When I posted my review of Microsofts Visual Studio .Net on our Web site, I included an interactive poll to learn more about your interests and concerns. (You can review many of our poll results at www.eweek.com/poll_archive.)

I asked readers to tell me what gave them greatest pause as they contemplated the climb up the Visual Studio .Net learning curve: its changes to familiar languages, such as Visual Basic; its formidable array of new Web services development and testing facilities; or the potential nuisance of unintended platform lock-in that might come along with the package, corrupting what they had hoped would be standards-based technologies.

In an admittedly unscientific sample (since people with no concerns at all could easily ignore a poll that asked about their "biggest concern"), the fear of "undesired coupling between Web standards and Microsoft protocols" quickly surged past 50 percent of the more than 2,000 responses. I see this result not necessarily as an indictment of Microsofts .Net strategy, but certainly as a clear statement of the communication challenge that faces the company—and as a warning that developers are hypersensitized to any hint that the company might do again what it has done before.

For the benefit of anyone who has already forgotten, Ill quote a key paragraph from last summers ruling by the Court of Appeals: "Microsoft intended to deceive Java developers and predicted that the effect of its actions would be to generate Windows-dependent Java applications that their developers believed would be cross-platform. ... Microsofts conduct related to its Java developer tools served to protect its monopoly of the operating system in a manner not attributable either to the superiority of the operating system or to the acumen of its makers and therefore was anti-competitive. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft offers no pro-competitive explanation for its campaign to deceive developers. Accordingly, we conclude this conduct is exclusionary, in violation of [Section] 2 of the Sherman Act."

Imagine re-reading that paragraph with "XML Web services" replacing "Java." Recall Microsoft Group VP Bob Muglia saying that .Net services would be free of charge—on Windows. Its easy to see why a majority of our poll respondents are more worried about what they dont (yet?) see in .Nets tools than they are about their visible opportunities and challenges.

Tell me why history doesnt matter at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.