August 06, 2003
Life, the Universe and the PDC
Man there is a lot of discussion about the next Microsoft "Professional Developer's Conference (PDC)". Scoble has been going nuts trying to respond to all the different comments for and against. Of course, that IS part of his job.
Now, I like Robert. He is a kewl guy. But after seeing how Apple treated it's developers at their latest World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC), I wonder if Microsoft may want to rethink things. Well.. I'd like them to... but I know they have their own plans.
First off, I could, and have watched Steve Job's keynote at the developer's conference over the web. (If you haven't, you really should.. it's a good show) It allowed me to get a glimpse of what Apple is up to and help me to get an idea of what developments I can expect on their platforms. And it was well recorded, easy to understand and free. I recently had to shell out over $1600 to get the handy-cam shots of speakers at the 1994 Device Driver Conference. (To be honest, it also included a license to the IFS, but I couldn't believe the shotty videography I got when paying for the DVDs of the conference... which COULD be online)
Robert discusses how even Microsoft has to pay for its employees to attend the conference, and how many at MS are balking about the price. Price is an issue for any conference. He couldn't attend Gnomedex. (Neither could I, and I really wanted to) As a guy who owns a really small software company, (ie: me) I can't easily find this kind of money for a conference, especially after spending over $7500 recently just to tool up with Microsoft's recent tools that ARE available. In light of knowing I will probably have to spend many more thousands of dollars on the next set of tools, how can an ISV like me keep up? I can't. But I still want to be plugged in to the developments at Microsoft. Should I be punished for not being able to attend the conference? Or get the alpha/beta tools to look at? Of course I can grab many of this on MSDN later... but part of the PDC is being there, and getting to see/touch everything. Apple not only gave away the latest OS.. they even gave away hardware! Thats right, every developer got a free iSight. Bonus!
Now... if MS were throwing in a copy of .NET 2003 Architect or something , I could see/justify the conference a bit more. But instead we might get some really buggy alpha/beta software that is truely useless outside of a touchy/feely kinda way since most of this won't be released for a few more years yet.
Robert brought up an interesting point about how "if you wanna have your skills ready for 2005, good to start now. " I can buy that.. always great to learn. But what the hell!! If Microsoft is truely expanding their API environment that much more where the complexity for development is going to rise so signifcantly that the learning curve requires YEARS of experience, I question if the tools team thought out the migration for those developers like myself who build interesting software, but don't have big corp budgets.
On an aside, I can't comment/criticize all departments at MS for this. I was lucky enough to get my hands on some of the information about the new Windows Driver Framework (DDI) for the next generation OS's from MS. Its great. It significantly reduces the complexity of low-level kernel mode drivers. And although there is many new API calls... it shouldn't take to long to grasp it. And it was released as part of the WinHEC DDK. I didn't need to attend the WinHEC for this. Funny though... it wasn't part of the latest WS2K3 stuff I just bought. *sigh*
Back from that tangent, Robert finished with some comments about over-hype/underhype of the conference. I don't get it. Its his job.. and we should leave it at that. If he is under-hyping it... I think it would be safe to say he isn't doing his job very well. And from what I have seen, that isn't the case at all. He is REALLY good at his job. Which is why we are all talking about it. But it doesn't justify that the conference will be any good, or worth it. (Or that it won't be for that matter).
Cost justification about contacts are only sound if during the conference you can actually hook up with these people. In my experience, unless you get a chance to drink beer with them it doesn't work that well if you are from a really small company. I write low level code. I could care less about talking to the ASP.NET guys. Any UI code I do write I do in C#, and its not like I am going to be able to email the C# guy I meet at the PDC and ask why the hell the Regex object is so convoluted when using the Escape() method with a string of every punctuation char (try it... its escape character hell). That's what the $150 incidents are for.
What the PDC IS good for is getting together with others you do know. It would be AWESOME to get together with Robert again. It would be neat to hook up with Eric Sink or the dude that wrote the Regex code into C# (thank heavens for FINALLY putting in a good regular expression lib). But that doesn't quite justify the costs in an environment where most companies have scaled back developer training.
Of course... if MS started giving out some hardware and software that is useable NOW... I might change my mind. :)
I hope the PDC is a success. I hope it comes off great. I would love to be there to check it out and enjoy the festivities. But its nuts to assume the costs are easily absorbed/justified when very little of the technology is applicable NOW. Most of us struggle to stay sane on our product roadmaps on a yearly basis... never mind having to wait 2 or 3 years before we can use what is going to be hyped at this PDC.
I think Apple did it right. They made their developer's feel warm and fuzzy by giving them the tools they need now, and pumping them with kewl goodies to keep them interested. (I so want an iSight). For those who couldn't attend, they still could get a glimpse at what is coming through the web broadcast. Maybe that goes to the "secrets" convo we had earlier. They weren't hyping what MAY BE in 2 or 3 years. They hyped tools and technologies we can use NOW!
Wonder if Microsoft could ever learn from that. Doubtful... but maybe Robert can convince them! :)Posted by SilverStr at August 6, 2003 09:06 PM