Thursday, July 8, 2010

Young developers do not like Microsoft

There's a great article on the New York Times about how Microsoft is losing touch with the younger market. And that's going to cause problems down the road for the software giant.

My favorite bit from the article:
Part of its problem may be that its ability to intrigue and attract software developers is also waning, which threatens its ability to steer markets over the long term. When it comes to electronic devices, people writing software have turned their attention to platforms from Apple and Google.

Meanwhile, young technology companies today rely on free, open-source business software rather than Microsoft’s products, so young students, soon to be looking for jobs, have embraced open-source software as well.

[Update: removed quote by Tim O'Reilly, since he says he was misquoted.]
Here's the problem, as I see it: the general idea for Microsoft is to get access to university students, indoctrinate the computer science majors with cheap developer tools, and get mindshare with the other students through inexpensive software. We've seen this with other companies before (why do you think Apple gives discounts to students?) so this is nothing new.

The concept is that these students will eventually enter the workforce, and will advocate for the tools they find most familiar - the software they used at university. In theory, the computer science graduates will want to develop software for Microsoft Windows, using Microsoft developer environments. The other students will want to use the other Microsoft suite software. Thus, Microsoft can expect to draw in huge corporate sales later, by offering discounts to universities and colleges. Usually, this works.

But in the last generation of students, Microsoft was not successful in getting access to university students. And we're now seeing the effects of that.

Where did that mindshare go, if it didn't go to Microsoft? It went right where Microsoft didn't want it to be: to Free and Open Source Software. In short, the Linux market.

This is a very real example why it's important to have a Free Software option. The students who graduate today are more inclined to use Linux and other open source software. Those who become developers will tend to use an open source software base. And that's only a good thing. I can't wait to watch the current generation of students graduate, and see how this further changes the market in a few more years.

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