I found an interesting comment by someone named Dave in response to Shelley Powers's post Always in Alt. Dave wrote

Microsoft made the bed they are now laying in.

(1) As Shelley put so well, they abandoned an exceptionally large group of developers when they moved to .NET - I should know, I was one of them. (Don’t worry for me… I’ve moved onto greener, less proprietary pastures. Screw me once MS, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me.)

(2) Worse yet, they are looking to do it again with the latest “Live” demo and supposedly-leaked emails about changing directions. This is one part of what MS has shown us alot of since 2000… they can’t stay in a single direction!

(3) But the larger part of their problems is this insistent craving they have to make bold announcements of products that, well, NEVER see the light of day in a timely manner. Let’s compare….

This year alone Apple announced three new iPods models, one brand-new Mac model, one new software suite, an upgrade to their other suite, delivered a major upgrade to their OS - two months ahead of time.

Microsoft? Well, after underwhelming the media with some pre-beta Longhorn bits (about 2 years late I might add) and holding their PDC which finally showed us developers something of which _might_ be released in another 12 months, they finally delivered - about 18 months late - upgrades to MSSQL and VS.NET. Office got a decent upgrade but users have little compelling reason to spend money on it. There’s XBox of course. And then they delivered the worst demo anybody has ever seen about a change in directions.

Where does this leave us developers? Very unhappy. Of course, as Scoble would put it - “real soon now” that will change. Of course, he said that 2 years ago too. In the meantime, I have to make a living. Can I do it using Microsoft Live products? Um, “real soon now”. How about using the - actually, quite excellent - new features of ASP.NET 2.0? Well, since they were promised back in 2004….

LOL. I guess I would have needed to tell my kids _12 months ago_ that I’d put food on the table “real soon now” if I depended on such PR talk.

PR talk…. now THAT is what is very wrong with Microsoft nowadays.

There are a couple of themes here that should be addressed. The first is that Microsoft abandoned developers with its .NET strategy. In the move to managed code, I believe Microsoft could have done a better job of satisfying large bodies of its developer constituents such as VB6 users. The classic VB petition is probably the most visible manifestation of this feeling of abandonment by our customers. As Soma pointed out in the discussion around his post "Rumors of my (VB6) demise...", the leap the incompatibility between VB6 and Visual Basic.NET was not a decision taken lightly by the Microsoft Developer Division but was deemed necessary to advance the platform.

The next point that Dave brings up is that the latest "Live" announcements are a radical change of direction that will cause disruption among our developer customers. I think this isn't right on two counts. First of all, the announcements aren't that radical a shift. A number of industry watchers such as Mary Jo Foley and Joe Wilcox have rightfully focused on this being more of a "sharpening of focus" for Microsoft than a radical new strategy. A significant number of the "Live" offerings are existing offerings that have been given new purpose and clearer goals. As time progresses, the Windows Live platform will unfold. This platform isn't a new set of developer tools and runtimes that will obsolete the .NET framework. That would suck. Instead these are APIs built around the Windows Live offerings and more that will give developers more opportunities to build interesting applications that delight users. A taste of this platform is at http://msdn.microsoft.com/msn and we will be announcing more details in the coming months. 

Dave's final point is that Microsoft is fond of announcing stuff years before it is ready. That is true and as a Microsoft employee I hate it a lot. I was talking to Brian Arbogast about this on Monday, and he agreed that we should endeavor to only announce things that people can use right away or can shortly thereafter. This is the philosophy around http://ideas.live.com.  

There definitely is a lot of confusion out there about Microsoft's "Live" strategy and exactly what the "supposedly-leaked memos" mean. Now that Ray Ozzie has started back blogging, I assume he'll be taking a personal role in clarifying what his "Live" strategy means to Microsoft, its partners and its customers. I've subscribed to his blog. Have you?