Rockford Lhotka

 Monday, July 31, 2006
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I submit that this is a good move by Microsoft: making the MSDN Library available for free download.

Some may argue that this devalues the MSDN subscription - but frankly that's silly. The vast majority of the Library is available online anyway, all Microsoft has done here is provided a more convenient way to access the data. It isn't like they decided to give away the software for free! Personally I haven't installed the Library on my machine for well over a year, because I find the web access more convenient.

Dollar per bit, an MSDN subscription is an unbeatable deal for a developer. The ability to get almost every OS, server and development tool for the purposes of development at just over the cost of Visual Studio alone is really quite amazing when you think about it.

Other people will likely argue that this is in response to government actions (the EU in particular). If so, then so be it. I think the EU is out of control and will likely do serious harm to European consumers, and maybe to Microsoft. But the upside for me is that I work for a consulting company, and the more variations on the OS the more time it takes us to build even simple software. Since we charge by the money, it merely means that software for use in the EU will make us more money that software for use in the US or elsewhere. So perhaps I should be rooting for the EU, because in some perverse way they're likely to make me more money?

Regardless, even if Microsoft is releasing the Library free to help mitigate some "openness" issues in the EU, that is only good news for developers who (for some reason) find it hard to get the content over the Internet.

My view is this: I've worked with IBM software, and the lack of an MSDN-equivalent is devastating to productivity. And I've worked with (and continue to work with) open source software, where the lack of decent documentation and organized support materials is infamous. The investment Microsoft has always made around supporting developer productivity through documentation and MSDN is one of its key success factors - at least in the development world. To me, this is just another small step in Microsoft's continuing support for developers on their platform.