Microsoft: Yoked to Windows

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2005-08-04 Print this article Print

Microsoft has enriched its development tools to be as powerful as Java, some say. Just be prepared to do Windows.

Microsoft has pumped up its software development technologies to be as muscular as Java but still easier to use, some say. But customers must be willing to hitch their apps to Microsoft's wagon. Unlike Java, which runs on a wide variety of operating systems, Microsoft's .NET set of programming tools builds applications that must be run on Windows server software.

Robert Fort, director of information technology at retailer Virgin Entertainment Group, says he routinely evaluates the risk of being locked into Microsoft technology: "I don't want to bleed a color or wear a logo." But he says standardizing on Microsoft development tools has turned out well. "These guys play leapfrog," Fort says of development tools vendors. "And the frog we've been on has served us well."

Maritz' travel incentive services group develops Web sites using both Java and .NET. Scott Loos, director of Web development at the company, says .NET "as an enterprise application platform has grown up. It's now comparable to doing development in Java." In particular, he says, the .NET tools' ability to let developers reuse code has improved.

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And some Microsoft customers believe .NET's rapid-development capabilities leave Java in the dust. Vinnie Le, vice president of information systems at corporate housing provider Oakwood Worldwide, says a typical Java development project might take his team nine months, while the same project using .NET would take no more than three. "Being able to deploy these applications fast helps our credibility with the business side," he says.

Microsoft's competitors say au contraire—Java has the edge. A recent study commissioned by IBM, conducted by consulting firm Branham Group, found that developers using IBM's Java tools built seven of eight test applications faster than with Visual Studio.

But getting an application out the door quickly doesn't mean it's done the best way. Charles Livingston, vice president of technology at luxury vacation home club Exclusive Resorts, says his team of five developers this year spent more than a month revising code generated by Visual Studio to make it more efficient. "There's enough of 'press this button to get what you want' in Visual Studio to lead inexperienced programmers down the wrong path," he says. "It's not always optimal code."

Application Development Management

1 Microsoft Way
Redmond, Wa 98052
(425) 882-8080



Eric Rudder
Senior VP, Servers and Tools
Coordinates programming strategy for Windows client and server operating systems, and is charged with "evangelizing" the Microsoft platform.
S. "Soma" Somasegar
VP, Developer Division
Responsible for all languages, tools and platforms, including Visual Studio, and oversees a development center in India. He joined Microsoft in 1989.

Visual Studio .NET 2003 software is used to build applications with one of Microsoft's programming languages, which include Visual Basic, C++ and C#; a key component of the suite is Visual SourceSafe, which provides version control. Visual Studio 2005 Team System, scheduled to ship this fall, provides tools to let development groups track and manage software projects.
Reference Checks

Exclusive Resorts
Charles Livingston
VP, Technology
(303) 226-4542
Project: High-end vacation home club operator rolled out .NET applications for reservations and for managing member contracts in July 2004.
Virgin Entertainment Group
Robert Fort
Dir., I.T.
(323) 904-6150
Project: Music and video retailer with 17 stores in North America used Visual Studio to create in-store product information kiosks and an application for analyzing inventory levels.
Scott Loos
Dir., Web Development
Project: Travel division of employee-incentives firm has eight developers using Visual Studio and Java tools to produce about 1,000 client Web sites each year.
Oakwood Worldwide
Vinnie Le
(310) 709-6822
Project: Corporate housing provider based in Los Angeles developed its core reservation system with .NET.
Shawn Cherry
Dir., Application Development
Project: Snack-food maker in Charlotte, N.C., has 12 developers maintaining .NET-based applications for pricing and sales reporting; it's also using .NET to connect to its SAP enterprise resource planning system.
GMAC Commercial Mortgage
Tom Gimpel
Chief Software Architect
Project: Financial division of General Motors has 50 programmers who use Visual Studio to maintain loan-servicing applications and other software.

Executives listed here are all users of Microsoft's products. Their willingness to talk has been confirmed by Baseline.

Microsoft operating results*

2005FY 2004FY 2003FY
Revenue $39.79B $36.84B $32.19B
Gross margin 84.4% 81.8% 81.2%
Operating income $14.56B <$9.03B/td> $9.55B
Net income $12.25B $8.17B $7.53B
Net margin 30.8% 22.2% 23.4%
Earnings per share $1.12 $0.75 $0.69
R&D expenditure $6.18B $7.78B $6.60B
* Fiscal year ends June 30; FY03 results reflect restatement to account for employee stock options

Source: Company reports

Total assets - $70.82B
Stockholders' equity - $48.12B
Cash and equivalents - $4.85B
Short-term investments - $32.90B
Long-term debt - None
Shares outstanding - 10.82B
Market value, 7/25 - $275.03B

**As of June 30, 2005, except as noted


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