Skepticism Happens {Here}

I attended Microsoft’s 2008 Product Launch Event, Heroes Happen {Here}, today and I think my suspicions have been officially confirmed.

My interest in Microsoft products has been waning as of late. Nevertheless, attending a Microsoft launch event is a good reason to get free schwag, and they do a decent job of highlighting what to look for in their new products.

Products? Let’s take a minute to dissect what that means.

In Freakonomics, Stephen D. Levitt talks about the simple law of incentives. Real estate brokers, he argues, don’t stand much to gain by selling your house for a few thousand dollars more. By the time they get their commission, that few grand is only a few hundred dollars. In fact, to that point, they could make far more, by selling another house with the time and effort it might take to “wait it out.” Understanding this incentive is the golden key for sifting through potential B.S.

What does that have to do with Microsoft?

Well, Microsoft is selling a product after all. They make money when you buy VisualStudio 2008, SQL Server 2008, and Windows Server 2008. And that’s really only the beginning. Once you’re hooked (I walked away with a free copy of each), then they really take you for a wild ride with production licensing.

Now, I’m not saying that is bad. To the contrary. Your business needs paper, staplers, and desks, too. It needs all kinds of tangibles that someone makes money by supplying. It’s an awesome system that pretty much drives commerce.

But at the same time, when I see the same UpdatePanel demo in the developer track that I saw last year at the Chicago .NET User Group, I become skeptical. When Split View, one of the most prominent features evangelized at the conference, brings my friend to say “uh, duh, Dreamweaver,” I become skeptical. And what about LINQ? Try on ActiveRecord for size - it’s free. Silverlight? Ever heard of Flash? And how about instead of banking on the drag and drop AJAX Toolkit, you actually learn JavaScript. You are after all a web developer, right?

But it wasn’t all bad. JavaScript debugging and JS IntelliSense are very cool. The load tests also seem cool.

I just want to keep it simple. In one of the presentations, a speaker referred to JavaScript as one of the “bane of a web developer’s existence;” and you might say an UpdatePanel is the definition of simple. But to who? A dilettante or a developer?

If you want to do anything there’s a learning curve. If you embrace that curve you’ll find that there are simple, cheap, even free tools that replace the Microsoft suite, backed by hundreds of smart people who did the same.

And knowing that, it’s hard for me to bank on the guy counting all his cash.

Thanks for reading! I'm Avand.

I’ve been working on the web for over a decade and am passionate about building great products.

My last job was with Airbnb, where I focused on internal products that helped teams measure the quality of the software they were building. I also built internal tools for employees to stay more connected, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Before that, I was lead engineer at Mystery Science, the #1 way in which science is taught in U.S. elementary school classroms. For a while, I also taught with General Assembly, teaching aspiring developers the basics of front-end web development.

I was born in Boston, grew up in Salt Lake City, and spent many years living in Chicago. Now, I call San Francisco my home and Mariposa my home away from home.

I enjoy the great outdoors and absolutely love music and dance. Cars have been an lifelong obsession of mine, especially vintage BMWs and Volkswagens. I’m the proud owner of a 2002 E-250 Sportsmobile van, and he and I have enjoyed many trips to beautiful and remote parts of the West Coast to create good vibes.

What can I do for you?

Read my other posts or get in touch: