Microsofts developer division wants you.
Long known for its aggressive courting of professional developers, the software company is now viewing all its systems as development platforms and is trying to empower developers at every level to write applications for the various platforms.
"We have to think about the whole spectrum of software development," said S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsofts developer division. "That definitely is our focus."
Somasegar said that although the professional developer is still the core target for Microsofts developer division, "there is n number of people that are involved with software development of some sort."
With Microsofts broad and varied platform focus, "Windows is a platform, SQL Server is a platform, Office is a platform, Live Services is a platform, Xbox is a platform," he said.
With that in mind, Microsoft is now calling out not only to professionals, but to budding developers, newcomers, hobbyists, students and others who have to do any kind of development. And Microsoft is going after the young as well as the more mature.
For instance, at Microsofts TechFest held here in early March, Microsoft Research officials demonstrated a project known as Boku: Lightweight Programming for Kids.
Boku uses a high-level programming paradigm within a three-dimensional gaming world on the Xbox 360 to introduce children to creative uses of the computer.
It does not use a textual language—the programming environment is integrated in an attractive gaming world and controlled entirely via an Xbox 360 game controller.
In February, Microsoft unveiled a Web site for beginner programmers, the Beginner Developer Learning Center. It also offers a Kids Corner to help kids learn to program.
Dan Fernandez, Microsofts lead product manager for Visual Studio Express, said there is a "huge number of people out there doing all sorts of things" with the low-end tools, but that number only scratches the surface of how many people would benefit from a tool for beginners based on the need or desire to build simple applications.
"Microsofts willingness to create high-quality teaching and learning resources and to make them broadly available is a terrific idea," said Chris Stephenson, executive director of New York-based Computer Science Teachers Association.
"I think Microsofts strategy is ambitious, but it makes sense." Moreover, several major technology players are aware that there is "a crisis in computer science," Stephenson said.
"While demand for highly skilled workers in this area continues to increase and drive our economy, the number of students entering the pipeline has dropped precipitously."