One of the other jobs I have at Microsoft is to be the Community Lead for the VSCore team.  I won't get into what that means just yet (I think we are still trying to figure that out.). One of the benefits recently is that I was asked to take a gander at the Linux community at the latest Linux World show. 

With only a show badge advertising MICROSOFT larger than my name, a Tablet PC ( No, I do not run a Linux distro on it ), and an Ipod (This actually garnered a bit of respect with the crowd.) I set out to enjoy the latest LinuxWorld expo.  It was an intriguing mix of well dressed big business and people wearing  "Got Root" hats accompanied with the only thing that could add geekyness to the hat& Star Wars parody " OS Wars" t-shirts.  Though I was told by a vender looking to do real business " There is less riff raff this year and more people here to save and or make money."   This statement could have been construed as a theme to this Linuxworld.  I boiled several of the talks I saw down to " Community and free stuff is an important part of the equation, but we have to make money somehow".  

Community Project Spaces, Source Control, and the IDE

The Sourceforge concept was everywhere.  The big guys were all touting their solutions during their sessions: Sun (, Novell (Novell Forge), IBM (Developer Works), HP (hp.sourceforge). On the show floor you could find several venders selling their solutions, both intranet (for running MAUI like projects internally) and internet hosting.  Bugopolis and Perforce were two among many.  Other companies that did not have had their own solution were making sure to tell people to check out their projects on Sourceforge or similar.  Missing from all of these solutions was any exciting forms of IDE interaction.  Everyone had their own favorite IDEs but noone had any real innovative solutions for merging community development into the IDE.  <Sarcasm> Oracle showed off Jdeveloper hosting a web browser and opening a project from a web page during their keynote!!!</Sarcasm> There could be a great integrated solution somewhere. 

Listening (and Responding) to Customers

Everyone beat MS up on this one.  Simon Phipps, the Chief Technology Evangelist at Sun, made the point best when he said " I used to work as a tester at Microsoft on Word 1.0.  I would log bugs that I'm not even sure the developers ever looked at. I never saw any fixed or heard about the bugs again. The first time I logged a bug against one of the developers wrote me back, told me he had fixed it, and I would see it in a released version in 3 months".  He challenged Microsoft to do the same thing and the audience cheered. It reminded me that Microsoft cannot continue to be a black hole in the eyes of the customer. 


Another, sadder theme, at Linux world was still " Look, you used to be able to do this only with Microsoft. Now our cheaper Linux solution does it. " Missing in the copycat cycle was innovation.  It seemed the most innovative demo was Sun showing off " Project Looking Glass".  This was a three dimensional desktop environment for Linux that looked like some mix of OS X(Complete with that funky pop-up start bar) and Longhorn.  The audience went crazy for this.  Red Hats CEO challenged the people in the audience with "Each of you here are heirs to the future information society& I'm here to ask you to moving the entire industry forward." IBM representatives also seconded this challenge in a session delivered designed to inspire innovation in computing for years to come. 

 Almost every developer I talked to said " What linux is missing is your product (Visual Studio)", but I saw a bunch of copycat IDE' s trying to close the gap.  Too bad we are still moving forward on an even better version. 

Other News, Rumblings, and Grumblings

The whole SCO thing

From the " Prove it" buttons being given away at the Red Hat booth to the people that told me " You should be happy, now MS is second on the hit list" .  SCO wanting to hit everyone running Linux with a $699 licensing fee for using pieces of UNIX code was big on the minds of everyone there.  Red Hat became instant heroes when they pledged $1 million to help fight the SCO thing in addition to filing a countersuit

Stability and Cost

I can't recall the last time I saw the Blue Screen of death, but it still haunts us(Microsoft) with jokes abound everywhere.  Quality (finding and fixing the right bugs) is something we need to continue to push on until it becomes obvious to customers that we have beaten the demon.  I did smile a bit when the StarOffice demo I watched crashed to the point the machine needed to be rebooted then crashed upon boot again.  Neither time did an opportunity arise to " Send Error Report" , but we were encouraged to go to bugzilla and file a bug if it happened to us. J  

I'm also not even sure what the details of our licensing policies are, but if you were at LinuxWorld you were educated on how evil they are.  No one at the show claimed that Linux was free, but one company that made the Linux switch did claim that no evil lawyers have come after him since they switched for being 8% under licensed.  It just depresses me to lose customers because of this.

Where' s Linux

I saw plenty of people with windows laptops and plenty of OS X notebooks, but outside of the booths and Sun sessions I was surprised at the lack of people running Linux.  Sure, their slide decks talked a big game, but it looked a lot like Powerpoint and Windows XP underneath for Dan Powers(IBM VP of Grid Computing and Emerging Technologies) and several others.  For presenters and general show goers I saw it felt like the order was MS > OS X > Linux.  It surprised me enough to mention it I guess.

Grid Computing

For scalable server solutions to projects like Seti@Home this was touted as what is already the " Next Big Thing" from IBM, Sun, Oracle and others.  IBM is starting to require their employees desktop machines for spare better than mainframe power at night.  They talked about a cool demo they did by modifying the Quake engine and creating a grid based quake server that could have over 500 people playing at the same time.  I've always wanted to see us take advantage of it to scale out HUGE virtual test labs.

The Microsoft Booth

We had a pretty sizable booth with demo stations. I wasn' t there to work the booth, but I did stop by frequently for the free jelly beans.  We were showing off VS.NET, Web Matrix, Unix Services for Windows, and Rotor.  There seemed to be a lot of interest in the last two. 

Well, that’s it.  My tablet doesn’t run Linux and I was not captured by an evil penguin.  If there is anything else you would like to know please stop by. Thanks for reading this far.  Now “Where do you want to go tomorrow” J



Extra Features

Best SWAG: Tie between the AMD micro 3 button with a scroll wheel laptop mouse and Microsoft jelly beans

Worst SWAG: Red Hats

Worst Ploy to take advantage of: Real networks threw an after hours party with free drinks to convince people to build their next generation software for them.  “Sure, I’ll write free code for you in return for peanuts and beer”.  (With the unemployment in the valley they might have had a few takers who considered it a good offer.)

Line most likely heard after people read my badge: Oh, well at least you don’t work for SCO.

As I asked for demos of all the competing IDE’s: “Do you know much about IDE’s, so I know where to start?” Followed by “So what project at Microsoft do you work on” and then by “Oh, nevermind you guys kick our butts anyway”  J I have some feedback on these IDE’s as well, but I think they require some more time to play with in person for real details.