I know, it’s really out of fashion to give Microsoft anything but grief, but I really feel like I need to at this point. After being stodgy and slow-moving for so long, Microsoft has really ramped up on all playing fields. They are working on Internet Explorer 7 well ahead of what they had said originally, they are making an effort to better communicate with their customers through blogs, and they are giving away more free tools now than they ever have before.
The biggest and best example is the Visual Studio Express series of applications. Though I still think Visual Studio Professional is ridiculously expensive, Microsoft has helped the hobbyists to stay in touch with up and coming technologies by offering “Express” Visual Studio editions of C#, Visual Basic, C++, and J#, as well as a special Web Developer version. There’s also a SQL Server Express so you can play with a database as well.
Really, this is the type of thing that wins over developers. I can honestly say I’m really jazzed about being able to play with these tools as a way of learning the technology (.NET 2.0). Clearly, this is a response to all the open source utilities that are available, and I think it’s a great step for Microsoft in terms of public relations. So, in this case, I must say thanks to Microsoft.