Saturday, May 17, 2008

Microsoft + Competition = "Innovation"

In the May issue of Visual Studio Magazine a letter to the editor bemoaned the fate of VB.NET as being a second-class member of the Visual Studio suite. Of course it is absolutely true that VB.NET is not given the same attention by Microsoft as C#, but why that should surprise anybody is beyond me. Language-wise Visual Basic has no competitors and Microsoft does not make it a practice of spending too much effort on product areas within which they have no competition. C#, of course, was created as a counterpoint to Java and therefore it behooves Microsoft to make certain that it is projected to the fore of the VS.NET languages and that maximum effort is spent on it.

Microsoft's practice of spending minimal effort until prompted by competition is clear enough when looking at the market share of Internet Explorer and placing that against Internet Explorer's release history. Notably, IE6 came out in mid-2001 when IE's market share was just about to reach its peak. IE7 did not even have a beta release until mid-2005 and it did not officially release until late 2006. Prior to IE7 Microsoft had released a version of IE about every other year. So when IE7 came out the market share for Internet Explorer had begun to fall. Now, by any estimation IE's falling market share during the years 2001-2006 was driven almost entirely by the rise of Firefox. It shouldn't be any surprise that one of the primary differentiators of Firefox was tabbed browsing and one of the primary features touted in IE7 is, you guessed it, tabbed browsing.

The fact that competition drives innovation is, of course, a foundation of a market economy. However, Microsoft seems to embody that principle more than most companies do.

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