It’s really nothing new that Microsoft is once again reaching out to developers with a vengeance and is jazzed about its sharpened focus on new application patterns and the Microsoft development platform. What perhaps is new is the overall excitement of and around the team tasked with getting out the word.
Channeling his inner LL Cool J, John Shewchuk, a Microsoft Technical Fellow heading up the technical evangelism and development team, essentially told eWEEK: “Don’t call it a comeback. We’ve been here for years!” Shewchuk took exception to his elite group being viewed as a “new” team, citing that the Microsoft Developer and Platform Evangelism (DPE) team is not new in the least. In fact, the group has been around since 2001. Shewchuk himself has been at Microsoft for nearly 20 years and is the CTO for the Microsoft Developer Platform.
However, in breaking the story of Shewchuk’s team’s new focus, Mary Jo Foley at “All About Microsoft” called it a new “deep tech” team inside the DPE unit “charged with working with top developers outside the company to build next-generation applications on top of the Microsoft platform.”
Back in the day, the Microsoft platform was primarily Windows and the company ruled its developer environment, but as Microsoft has moved from being just a software vendor to a devices and services vendor, the Microsoft platform has become much more than just Windows to include Windows Azure, Windows Phone, Bing, Xbox and more, Shewchuk said. And his group is tasked with helping developers “stitch apps together” using elements of developer goodness from across Microsoft’s varied products.
“Our goal is to work with the community of developers, designers and IT pros in startups, ISVs and enterprise shops to take advantage of our technology and new application patterns, multi-device support and things like support for Linux-based systems in Azure. And there is so much more,” Shewchuk said. “I don’t think people know how to access all that stuff on their own. The Microsoft developer platform has really become much broader as a result of bets Microsoft has made over the last few years.”
Indeed, Foley notes: “The Microsoft toolbox from which devs can choose to mix and match includes many technologies that didn’t exist a decade, or even just a few years, ago. They include everything from Windows Azure technologies, to Bing programming interfaces and datasets, to the WinRT framework underlying Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Microsoft’s next Xbox, Kinect, Windows Phones, Surfaces, Perceptive Pixel multitouch displays are among the targets for these technologies.”
Asked when there will be a single development platform for everything Microsoft, Shewchuk argued that there already is. He compared the process of building a Windows app and a Windows Phone app just a few years ago to now, saying the difference is like night and day, with the programming model today being much the same on the phone as on the desktop. “We’re bringing high commonality with what we’re doing in the cloud, on the phone, the desktop and beyond. The thing to remember about the platform is it’s huge.”
“Currently, there is a great deal of complexity in dealing with the various Microsoft platforms,” said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC. “Differences between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are not helpful, and a unique architecture with live-tile interaction means that developers have to do special work for essentially targeting a small sliver of the mobile device market. What this effort is likely to do is help enterprises, who mostly have established Microsoft development shops over the last decade, leverage that investment.”
Meanwhile, in a post describing his new role, Shewchuk said, “It’s a real privilege to be at the center of so much action and to engage so directly with the developer community.” He also explained that his team is set on helping developers “create amazing next generation apps, build the frameworks that make all this easier, and share our experiences with the community.”
Microsoft Developer Dream Team Targets Next-Generation Developers
Shewchuk told Foley he felt like he was working in a developer’s playground. “This is like geek heaven,” he said. It’s more like a Microsoft Dream Team. This is not the first such dream team Shewchuk has worked on at Microsoft and it will not be the last.
Although Shewchuk’s new team’s role is to partner with top ISVs to build next-generation applications using Microsoft’s devices and services, and share those experiences with the developer community, for the last several years Shewchuk focused on Windows Azure developing key platform services including Windows Azure Active Directory, Service Bus, and SQL services. Previously he was a key contributor on a wide range of technologies including: Visual Studio, .NET, the Windows Communication Foundation, the Windows Identity Foundation, Internet Explorer, and Active Directory.
Moreover, “to do this work I have an incredible team with people like Eric Schmidt, who leads our consumer applications efforts and has done ground-breaking work on projects like Sunday Night Football (which is up for a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Live Sports Series),” Shewchuk said in his post.
“We’re building out the team by adding top-notch developers and evangelists from across the industry,” he added. “Two recent examples: James Whittaker–a known industry disruptor and incredible speaker joins us from Bing where he has been leading the development team making Bing knowledge available programmatically–many people may know him from his viral blog post on why he left Google for Microsoft. And Patrick Chanezon just joined us from VMware where he was driving their cloud and tools developer relations – he has a ton of expertise in the open source space which will be increasingly important given our new Azure IaaS support for Linux. As you can see we are bringing together a fantastic team, so if you are an amazing developer and want to get onboard, please let us know.”
Still, with any new developer thrust from Microsoft there is a requisite amount of detraction from certain camps in the industry. Some argue that Microsoft’s time has passed as a key target for developer interest. However, line-of-business app developers argue that they live by Microsoft tools and will not be giving them up for the next new thing. The arguments are as old as .NET vs. Java.
“Sure, some people say Microsoft’s time has passed because of open source, but we have all kinds of solutions,” Shewchuk told eWEEK. “And we’ve been very active in the open-source world. We brought in Patrick Chanezon who was involved with Spring and Cloud Foundry and is well-known in open-source circles, we founded MS Open Tech [Microsoft Open Technologies Inc.],” he said, beginning to rattle off a list of Microsoft’s open-source accomplishments.
“I think Microsoft still has a sizeable and mostly loyal ecosystem that can be mobilized,” IDC’s Hilwa said. “This effort is great and will likely move the needle. Microsoft is known for its evangelism efforts. Developer ecosystems are not pure as many with Microsoft skills have picked up Web skills and even iOS/Objective C skills over the last few years.”
“I think people have this old view of Microsoft as in it’s the Microsoft way or the highway, but that’s just not the case,” Shewchuk said. “We have people doing Linux, iOS apps, Android apps. Not everybody’s on Windows anymore.” Microsoft has long understood that, he said.
Indeed, Shewchuk himself has been an advocate and contributor to open-source initiatives and cross-industry interoperability including the development of many Web standards–most recently he drove many of the early contributions Microsoft made to OAuth 2.
“Over time, it will help the device market share story if enterprises buy into the Microsoft vision,” Hilwa added. “A more converged operating system architecture, coming before most of the consumer developer ecosystem dissipates, is essential if the Microsoft effort is to succeed in the long run.”
Shewchuk said he held the first “all hands” meeting of his new team and even as long-time industry vet, he was impressed with the level of excitement surrounding this endeavor. “The level of excitement is off the charts,” he said.