Microsoft may suck at life but they understand developers

Last week, my friend Mike Downey (who now works at Microsoft) tweeted:

Wow - can't believe we are giving away free laptops to all paid PDC attendees! Very cool! #pdc09

Of course, being the Microsoft sceptic that I am (hey, you try using Microsoft crap for over 20 years and see if you don't develop an allergy for it), I responded by instinct with:

RT @scottjanousek: RT @mdowney: we are giving away free laptops to all paid PDC attendees! #pdc09 <- now THATs SWAG! <-- or desperation :)

But something about my response didn't sit right with me and it stuck at the back of my head like chewing gum in my hair.

Sure, they don't get UX (maybe they're too big to get UX).

Sure, they're evil (heck, they've got Steve Ballmer at the helm – would you like to meet him in a dark alleyway?)

And, sure, they made my life hell every day that I used Windows to the point where I considered giving up working with computers altogether (I'm writing this on my Mac, which I would kiss if I wasn't in public right now).

But Microsoft gets developers.

They understand that developers have so much choice today that it's up to the platform vendors to go to extremes to attract them.

So, yes, it is desperation.

But it's the same desperation every platform vendor should be feeling (perhaps not Apple but remember, you're not Apple.)

Giving away free laptops, pre-loaded with their development software, is exactly what I would have recommended that they do if I was running their developer relations team. Basically, it's the next logical step beyond what I recommended mobile companies like Samsung, Nokia, Palm, etc., do in my dating guide for the discerning mobile platform post.

So, Microsoft, kudos for understanding that you need to go to extremes to attract developers.

Making it dead simple for developers to evaluate your platform is the way to attract developers. If that means giving away laptops preloaded with the development environment so I can start evaluating your framework instead of not bothering, then so be it.

Mobile companies looking to attract developers to their platforms have a lot to learn from Microsoft's approach.