Microsoft Set to Tap Non-Pro Tools Market

Microsoft and other companies are looking to cash in on the market for empowering non-professionals.

Who wants to be a programmer?

Microsoft is hoping everyday folks will take the challenge by using its non-professional programming tools, and other vendors are following suit.

Microsoft is poised to tap the nascent market for development tools to enable non-professionals to create applications, having established a team specifically built for this push and planning several initiatives, including a new Web site strictly for beginners.

Moreover, Microsoft hopes to tap into the power of its new Windows Vista operating system with its new user interface and communications subsystems to further empower non-professionals.

Meanwhile, Borland Software and Sun Microsystems also are positioning tools for beginners and non-traditional programmers.

Earlier in 2006, Microsoft spun out a group within its tools division to address this.

The Non-professional Tools Group is tasked with coming up with a strategy for the Redmond, Wash., company to support what the company sees as a large untapped market.

John Montgomery, program manager in the Non-professional Tools Group, has said the groups primary project is code-named "Tuscany."

Although Microsoft would not discuss details of Tuscany, sources said its aimed at bringing a software-as-a-service spin to the Visual Studio platform, or what might be viewed as a Visual Studio Live initiative.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Visual Studio Live.

In an interview, Montgomery said Microsoft research in the area found that there are 7 million professional developers in the world, about 40 percent of whom code for fun after work hours.

About 70 percent hold a computer science or some sort of engineering degree.

However, "the non-professional segment is about three to four times larger than the professional segment, and thats just people over the age of 18," he said.

Microsofts research shows that only 10 percent of the 30 million or so non-professional developers aspire to be professionals.

"Were interested in the end-user developers," Montgomery said, citing macro writers, students and hobbyists among the first tier he is targeting.

Women also represent an untapped segment, he said. "Women represent 51 percent of the world population, but only 6 percent of all developers are female," he said.

Montgomery identified three main types of development: Code-oriented, using tools such as Microsofts Visual Basic; animation-oriented, using tools like Adobes Flash; and template-oriented, as in blogging platforms and wikis.

"You can use any of them to build applications, but there are not that many companies who have offerings in all three areas," he said, adding that Microsoft plans to be one of them.

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