Chris Anderson has been learning Python via Jim Hugunin's excellent IronPython and came to the conclusion that Microsoft has been missing the boat in programming language trends. In his post The Hobbyist and the Script  he writes

Scripting is great for glue code - the same thing that VB1 and 2 used to be great at. VB3 started to get into the serious app development with rich data integration, and VB4 brought us into the 32-bit era, and in a way back to glue code. VB4's embracing ActiveX controls gave VB developers an entirely new place to play. I remember working on an application using a beta of VB5 and writing my "hard core code" in MFC ActiveX controls. After a while I started writing more and more of the code in VB, because it worked and wasn't the bottle neck in anyway for the application.

I think that scripting and many dynamic languages are in the same camp. They are great for small applications and writing glue code. Look at Google Maps, the real processing is on the server, and the client side AJAX is just the glue between the user, the browser, and the backend server. I would argue that something more beefy like Outlook Web Access (a Microsoft AJAX application, writen before AJAX was the name) demonstrates more of the limitations of writing the majority of your client interface in script.

Regardless of the limitations, our singular focus on strongly typed compiled languages has blinded us to the amazing productivity and approachability of dynamic scripting langauges like Python and Ruby. I'm super excited that we are changing this. Hiring Jim Hugunin is a great start. I hope we continue this, and really look to add a strong dynamic language and scripting story to our developer portfolio.

I've actually been quite upset by how many programming language camps Microsoft has neglected in its blind pursuit of competition with Java and the JVM. Besides the scripting language camps, there are significant customer camps we have neglected as well. We have neglected Visual Basic developers, we gave them a poor replacement in Visual Basic.NET which the market has rejected which can be gleaned by posts such as Chris Sells's pointing out that publishers don't want to VB.NET books and the Classic VB petition. We have neglected DHTML developers who have been building web sites and web applications against Internet Explorer, we don't even have a Javascript IDE let alone a story for people trying to build complex AJAX/DHTML applications like GMail or Google Maps.

The main problem is that Microsoft is good at competing but not good at caring for customers. The focus of the developer division at Microsoft is the .NET Framework and related technologies which is primarily a competitor to Java/JVM and related technologies. However when it comes to areas where there isn't a strong, single competitor that can be focused on (e.g. RAD development, scripting languages, web application development) we tend to flounder and stagnate. Eventually I'm sure customer pressure will get us of our butts, it's just unfortunate that we have to be forced to do these things instead of doing them right the first time around.

On a similar note, thank God for Firefox.