The Importance of Microsoft Being Transparent

In an eWEEK interview, Microsoft's S. "Soma" Somasegar and Prashant Sridharan hit on a range of topics, including how the company is dealing with the issue of open source.

At next weeks VSLive conference in San Francisco, Microsoft Corp. will be announcing the status of such tools as Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2, SQL Server 2005 Beta 3 and the first Community Technology Preview of Indigo. S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of the Developer Division at Microsoft, who is one of the shows keynote speakers, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft to discuss the companys plans for these tool releases, as well as the developer ecosystem, dealing with open source and more. Prior to his current role overseeing the developer division, Soma served as corporate vice president of the Windows Engineering Services and Solutions group within the Windows Division. Prashant Sridharan, senior product manager for Visual Studio Team System, joined Somasegar in the interview.

Whats the holdup on getting Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 out?

Somasegar: Were still aiming to ship VS 2005 and the .Net Framework 2.0 this summer. But more important is delivering the right product with high quality in a timely manner. We expect our early adopter customers to go live with VS 2005 Beta 2, and we need to ensure the right level of quality to enable these early adopter customers to deploy in their production environment. But in the end, we want people to remember the quality of the final product—the one they use on a daily basis for years. We have to get the quality bar right.

Whats the importance of support for smart clients in Visual Studio 2005?

Somasegar: Smart clients are easily deployed and managed client applications that provide an adaptive, responsive and rich interactive experience by leveraging local resources and intelligently connecting to distributed data sources. The idea of smart clients is to bring together the good things about local applications like support for running offline and rich user interface with the things that are good about Web applications like easy deployment. Were working to make this vision happen by introducing technologies such as the .Net Framework 2.0s ClickOnce that make application installation and update simple. The goal of Visual Studio 2005 is to make it simple for developers to use these technologies so they can deliver better experiences to their users.

From your perspective in this "new" role for you, whats your message to developers on how youre going to deal with the issue of open source and the movement toward the open-source community?

Somasegar: One of the things I have personally learned from the open-source community or movement is transparency. The reason Im excited about transparency is if Im a developer what I really want to know is the internals of the system, I want to know when decisions are getting made, I want to know why the decisions are getting made and—assume Im a developer outside of Microsoft—that Microsoft can provide a way for me to interact on a regular basis with the product teams that are building the technology. Then I feel good about using the technology and taking a bet on the technology. In some sense the thing open source has done very well is having a rich, vibrant community. Thats what weve learned over the last three or four years, that having a rich, vibrant community of customers is absolutely critical and is even more crucial in the developer space.

Over the last two or three years weve put a tremendous amount of effort and focus inside the division now, in terms of connecting with the customer, communicating with the customer and creating this sense of a close community as we make this huge step forward. Look at things like the Community Technology Preview [CTP]. It looks like thats just an obvious thing to do, but I can tell you inside the team there was a lot of angst because historically we were in a mode where wed write some code, wed go through an extensive stabilization period, wed call it a beta, and then wed show it to customers.

We were sort of not ready to air our dirty laundry so to speak, because every build that comes out wed have some problems, wed have some glitches, but thats how software gets developed—from a build to build perspective. And we were trying to say, Hey, if I can share it with you as an engineer in the team, I want to share it with my close community of customers. Because I want them to see the progress we are making. And if they think we are making the wrong decisions they can tell us right then and there. I dont want to wait another year before I can get feedback from the community.

I think trying to keep the close set of customers, whom I call the community, an integral part of the development process is what transparency is all about, and I think thats what developers want and thats what we want. And thats the only way I know how to build more effective products for our customers.

Next Page: Feedback on the CTP process.