At this year’s build conference keynote, Microsoft’s new CEO Satya Nadella said: “it’s a good time to be a developer”, and after seeing all MSFT’s announcements that came in the following days, I believe he was right.
The new MSFT has openness written all over. Anders Hejlsberg physically pushed the button on stage to make the sources for the new next generation managed C# compiler – codename ‘Roslyn’ – available to the public. A historic event, and likely hard to beat at following conferences. However, this certainly wasn’t the first open sourcing by MSFT. Instead, it is the culmination of events started in the early 2000s with the WiX installer and the Outercurve foundation, in recent years contributions have been faster and more extensive: Entity Framework, MVC, Reactive Extensions, the .NET framework itself, and now the next generation compiler.
Openness in this case doesn’t just refer to open source though: it’s a philosophy, a way of life. While in the past MSFT worked on something in secret for years, followed by a ‘tadaaa’ moment, at this year’s Build, those present were shown projects which are still in a pre-alpha phase, like ‘.NET native’ and the new Just in Time compiler codename ‘RyuJIT’. We were even shown a roadmap of things to come, like the return of the start menu in Windows 8, windowed store apps, the compilers finally! taking advantage of superscalar instructionsets (MMX, SSE, AVX), and the future possibility to develop uniform Windows store apps for all device categories (including the Xbox One).
Where in the past MSFT had a habit of competing with non-MSFT developments, today the keyword seems to be ‘embrace’: we can use visualstudio online to host GIT as well as TFS source code collections, we can use Office on iPad, Windows Azure hosts node, Java, as well as the traditional .NET, and cross platform use of C# is supported by the new MSFT/Xamarin partnership.
All in all MSFT is sending out a very positive vibe these days, and it is this vibe developers can get behind totally. It’s a good time to be a developer indeed.