Steve Ballmer (the CEO of Microsoft) made this comment during Mix ’08 during his interview with Guy Kawasaki:
GUY KAWASAKI: Okay. … so it was like in the ashtray of your Lexus?
STEVE BALLMER: I’m a Ford guy, and I’m slightly offended by that. My father who worked for Ford would be offended, but nonetheless …
Fair enough, Ballmer likes Ford, but what kills me is that he apparently made his choice by association. Like Ballmer, my extended family are (were) also employed by Ford in the US Rust Belt. However, I still value quality and the economics of a purchase over my family affiliations. Of course, this is a broader issue – many people favour historical affiliation / brand loyalty over critical thinking and this may never change, but Ballmer is the CEO of Microsoft!
Now Ford, GM, Chrysler are on the verge of bankruptcy, and while many factors contribute to their situation. I think most people agree that these automakers kept making poor decisions for short term revenue gains – they kept making bigger expensive, less efficient cars, they were inward focuses and failed to look at possible future scenarios (like a global economic recession, skyrocketing oil prices, doomsday, blah-blah-blah). Basically, the big three automakers have been out of touch with the rest of the world. People like me (and probably you too) have never owned a domestic car. For myself, imports offered better value for my money (better fuel efficiency, a higher resale value, and a longer life). In addition, imports felt safer, sturdier, and were more aesthetically pleasing. Imports offered quality over quantity, and they looked nice too - imports made me a happy satisfied consumer.
Like the big three automakers, Microsoft (or Ballmer at least) is out of touch with their community (their developers). For myself, the community oriented / collaborative communities outside Microsoft are continually drawing me in. The openness of these communities and their open solutions is one part of the interest, but I’m also growing tired of working in an ecosystem (and with developers) that literally lag years behind the rest of the software world. Down here in the trenches Microsoft centric developers bear a striking resemblance to the unionized American autoworkers – inflexible, arrogant, and inward focused.
I want a development stack I can be proud of, that embraces quality over quantity, to work with developers that share my values, and an environment that offers more aesthetics. In short I want to be a happy satisfied developer.
In all fairness, it’s great how Microsoft is opening up (i.e. IronRuby, IronPython, MVC, etc…), but there are already more open established and mature communities outside Microsoft. I also really like C#, WCF, ASP.NET MVC, and Server 2008, but it’s all the baggage associated with the Microsoft ecosystem. It’s also fair to mention that the ALT.NET community is making great strides, but it is fundamentally discouraging that ALT.NET had to be formed in the first place. I mean, where are all the ALT.Rails, ALT.Ruby, ALT.Linux, ALT.Java communities?!