Thursday, April 20, 2006

Seed the Hobbyist Programmer

Microsoft has decided to continue its free release of Visual Studio Express beyond their original plan of one year. According to ZDNet and other tech RSS feeds, VSE has been downloaded 5M times since November 2005.

Download Visual Studio Express here.

When combined with SQL Server 2005 Express, VSE provides a great learning platform for secondary school students as well as college students. VSE and SQLE also provide a powerful and affordable (how about $0?) development environment for hobbyist programmers who don't want to pay $260 for Visual Studio 2005 Standard.

SQL 2005 Express takes MSDE several steps better. First, the maximum database size is 4GB versus MSDE's 2GB. SQLE can run on a box with up to 1GB of RAM and 1 processors. Third, SQL 2005 SP1 adds graphical interaction with VSE to allow you to design databases without needing SQL Enterprise Manager.

With VSE and SQLE 2005 available for free, Microsoft is seeding the interests and development of future programmers. This is a wise move on Microsoft's part. As I have argued on other articles, software is where innovation and value are delivered. I think the OS platform is primarily a philosophical and business decision but once that decision is made, the hardware and OS are commodities. It's the software that creates value (one could argue that the OS has implicit value because the chosen OS yields a set of innovation that can only be used on the chosen platform). Kevin Kelly argued that the value of a network is a function of the number of nodes on the network. In order to sustain high numbers of Microsoft nodes, there needs to be innovative software to drive demand for the Microsoft platform.