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Financial Truths About The .NET Development Ecosystem

Microsoft's high prices for dev tools fund a cottage industry that has no parallel in computing.

In the write-ups for the Jolt Awards in Coding Tools, I called out Microsoft for the sky-high prices of the high-end editions of Visual Studio 2013. As I pointed out, the top edition, referred to as "Ultimate," has a retail price of $13,299, while the next lower-priced version ("Premium") costs $7000 less — which remains a princely sum. These numbers are for show. No one actually pays them. Rather, they pay for the less-expensive corresponding MSDN subscription, which includes the desired edition. And at large sites, customers pay even lower prices. In sum, the $13K price is there primarily to create the perception of value (and of correspondingly significant discounts on bids for new business.)

While there is no doubt that Visual Studio is great software and delivers considerable value, I can't help asking why it does not deliver more. For example, one of the highly touted new features of VS2013 is built-in support for Git, the addition of which means that Microsoft finally added a feature found in other IDEs for years. To make the point explicitly clear, VS2013 now has out-of-the-box support for two SCMs: TFS and Git. Hardly the stuff of $13K tools.

Moreover, why hasn't Microsoft included the IDE enhancements offered by two other contenders for the Jolt Award, DevExpress CodeRush and JetBrains ReSharper? While Visual Studio occasionally aggregates the features of previous versions of these tools, it does so very slowly — at roughly the speed it adds SCM tools. The reason for this is political. Microsoft has long had a relationship of benevolent protection towards vendors who sell development tools and extensions: It will not roll over the vendors by bundling equivalent products in its offerings.

Because of this dynamic, .NET developers enjoy a very wide array of software, especially controls and libraries, from third-party vendors, such as Telerik, ComponentOne, Infragistics,  n/Software, and many others. These vendors get cover for their own pricing by the prices charged by Microsoft for the base product. That this model works and has richly rewarded all involved parties is undeniably true.

Could the growing movement toward open source hardware rewrite the rules for computer and networking hardware the way Linux, Apache, and Android have for software? Also in the Open Source Hardware issue of InformationWeek: Mark Hurd explains his "once-in-a-career opportunity" at Oracle.

Read the rest of this article on Dr. Dobb's.

Prior to joining Dr. Dobb's Journal, Andrew Binstock worked as a technology analyst, as well as a columnist for SD Times, a reviewer for InfoWorld, and the editor of UNIX Review. Before that, he was a senior manager at Price Waterhouse. He began his career in software ... View Full Bio

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