As the English post-punk band New Model Army sang, “hate will drive you onwards, hate will drive you upwards”. I can’t suggest that the lyrics of an act named after Oliver Cromwell’s puritanical group of veterans can provide a sound basis for career decisions but learning to hate Microsoft certainly did my job prospects no harm by forcing me to explore the open-source software world.
My first attempt to extract myself from the Microsoft eco-system came at the time of the introduction of .NET 1.0. That attempt failed but I eventually jettisoned my last PC after .NET 2.0.
And it’s not just me that finds Microsoft’s business approach more than a little annoying: the European Union’s imposition of a massive anti-trust fine demonstrates that Microsoft has some previous in the area of manipulating markets contrary to the interests of the consumer.
This is a company that finds it difficult to cede any form of control. If it were an ex-partner then controlling and manipulative are two of the adjectives that I might use in polite company.
But Microsoft isn’t the only company to display these tendencies in the IT world so why pick on it?
Well, for anyone who has performed even the smallest bit of web development, two words cause the blood to boil: Internet Explorer.
In version after version of IE, Microsoft has muddied the waters by producing almost-but-not-really standards compliant versions of its browser – seemingly in the hope of making other browsers appear dysfunctional when operating on Microsoft’s operating systems. The number of developer-years that have surely been wasted on getting something working on IE that works fine on every other browser does not bear thinking about. Some will point out that the latest version of Internet Explorer adheres to standards and is fast too. Well excuse me for not joining in the hurrahs, now that after fifteen years of seemingly trying to make developers lives hell, that forgiveness is finally being sought after. Remember that all the previous versions of IE are still out there, taunting us with the lack of standards compliance.
With falling PC sales Microsoft can no longer impose its will as it has done previously. But the news that jQuery 2 jettisons support for Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 represents something of an end-game for the old IE marketing tactic. jQuery is now the de facto standard for web development and with its ascendancy the control of the front end has moved beyond Microsoft’s grasp. For many web developers, this moment has not come soon enough.
Having said all that I’d quite like to get hold of the next Xbox, when it arrives. But I’d say that the odds of Microsoft asking me to review any of their products are slim to non-existent. At best.