Tuesday, August 28, 2007

 

Passage to India

Despite company origins as a Basic compiler vendor, Microsoft has long shown an erratic, often indifferent attitude toward software tools. It dropped the ball in the mid-1980s and was scooped by Borland with C++. It dropped the ball again in the mid-1990s and was scooped by Sun with Java. After a surge of work in the early 2000s on the second (and the first successful) versions of C# and ASP.NET, it again shows signs of fatigue.

Key management roles have been turned over to sharp pencils, and they have outsourced support to India. While India certainly has many competent software engineers, those working on Microsoft tools support either do not have or are not allowed to use much skill, and they apparently lack close relationships with developers. Their working knowledge matches what appears in Microsoft documentation.

Microsoft support for software tools has become relatively expensive and also relatively ineffective in just those situations where it could matter the most. If one has a problem, as one frequently will, with software issues not explained or poorly explained by documentation, and if one has already studied the documentation, then there will be little help from Microsoft. Time and money will be wasted revisiting the documentation, and usually there will be nothing beyond it.

Keepers of the various Microsoft and Microsoft-oriented Web forums are similar. The latter often have business interests with Microsoft, and they will rarely venture beyond the company lines. Many forum-keepers appear to lack knowledge other than documentation, although some of them try to make up for that with arrogance. There are, fortunately, several book authors and Web logs, most independent from Microsoft, covering trouble spots. As a practical matter, they have become our key sources of support.

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