Microsoft Celebrates 30th Year as Developers Company

Analysts point to Microsoft's steady history of developer support as the core of the software company's success.

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Microsoft last month celebrated its 30th anniversary as the company built of, by and for developers.

That is how Microsoft Corp. officials have long described the company, and it is an apt description, as developers continue to be a primary focus for the software giant.

No other company has been able to amass an ecosystem of developers as large as or as committed as Microsoft has, analysts say.

Witness the Microsoft PDC (Professional Developers Conference) in Los Angeles last month.

Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, said the show set a record in terms of attendance; it sold out faster than ever before, there were more people on the waiting list than ever before and there were double the number of exhibitors as at the last PDC in 2003.

"Developers have really always been Microsofts core customer segment," said David Treadwell, corporate vice president of the .Net Developer Platform team.

"The companys first product was a BASIC compiler for developers. We know the importance that developers play in the ecosystem of the technology industry. The applications come from developers; theyre the innovation engine for the industry. I cant overstate the importance of developers."

John Montgomery, director for the Developer Division at Microsoft, said, "The story in a nutshell is theres a complex ecosystem that sits around developing applications and making money off of them … And Microsoft has shown itself pretty good time and again at figuring out how people can make money off of its products."

Some of that is philosophical, some of that has to do with the technology, and some of it has to do with the types of programs and machinery Microsoft has put in place to help developers make money, Microsoft officials said.

The big waves began with DOS, which created a vibrant software ecosystem around itself. The next curve was Windows and Windows 3.1, which is where the formula really came together and Microsoft introduced Visual Basic, Montgomery said.

Then came Windows 95, and later Windows 2000 and XP. Now the .Net era is here with the Longhorn or Windows Vista wave approaching.

/zimages/1/28571.gifAllchin says Windows Vista will have features designed for enterprise use. Click here to read more.

"There are a lot of people in the world that can make software, but there are very few people in the world that can make money off of software," Montgomery said.

Gates and company early on figured that the concept of high volume, low cost was the model to adopt. And they did. Another key theme was simplicity.

"Make it simple, make it simple to build for, make it widely available and ubiquitous and then show people how to make money," is the approach with which Microsoft continues to attract and maintain developers, Montgomery said.

Anders Hejlsberg, a technical fellow and chief architect of C# at Microsoft, said when building a new language or platform, "I value simplicity over everything; I always look for simplicity."

Indeed, Hejlsberg said, "You can see it in the products Ive built over the years—they strive to be simple. Simplicity is important in the quest for developer productivity."

Hejlsberg also created Borland Software Corp.s Turbo Pascal and Delphi, which have been touted for their simplicity. And Hejlsbergs history at Borland, which has a history of having an almost fanatical developer following, indicates that he knows how to build products developers want to use.

BASIC and Visual Basic have been considered major breakthroughs for Microsoft, as nearly every competitor that brings to market an easy-to-use development platform describes it as "VB-like."

Next Page: The importance of BASIC.