Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ballmer: People Ready Software

his week I'm at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Boston. (No, I wasn't in the tunnel in the Big Dig that fell apart last night--I had gone through those tunnels earlier in the day, though. I'm still wondering how long it'll take me to get to the airport on Thursday.)

Once again, Steve Ballmer gave the keynote this year. One of the topics that he hit hard on this morning was "People Ready Software." It's the driver that they use when designing their own software, and it's what they want partners to do.

He described People Ready Software as having these characteristics:

  • Familiar and easy to use
  • Easier to integrate and connect
  • Innovative and evolves to meet your needs
  • Widely used and supported

  • For those of us who have been writing software for this platform for two decades, we didn't need to hear it. We already do it. We live and breathe "easy to use." We think about UI first - not as an afterthought. We think about the user the whole time we're going through design. "Familiar and easy to use" was one of the tag phrases we used over and over when designing our Workbench tool.

    To me, it's a major distinction between software that was designed for experts and software that was designed for everyone. A couple of weeks ago I engaged in a bit of a debate with Joe Landman (of Scalable Informatics) about the usability of differing cluster/distributed computing products. While Joe had some points that were definitely correct (he predicted that Microsoft would be making an announcement about entering the Top 500, for example), I still disagree about usability. Traditional distributed computing solutions just weren't designed as "People Ready Software."

    That's not to say that we haven't designed our software for experts. Take our development patterns as an example: we wanted to make developing for our platform as simple as possible. As anyone who has attended one of my webcasts knows, it can take as few as 20 lines of code to grid enable software using our Worker pattern.

    It's very powerful, but very easy to use. But we don't stop at "simple." The Worker library pattern is just one of seven development patterns that we offer developers (and we ship code samples for each of them).

    Building on Web services and .NET has made it easy for us to offer integration; we made sure that we have full COM interoperability; indeed we have customers using everything from COM interfaces (C++, VBA and VB6) to .NET interfaces (C# and VB.NET) to non-Microsoft technologies (PHP, Python). We look forward to the releases of PowerShell and WCF, because those will allow us to continue to enhance our integration capabilities.

    Innovative and evolving? We're doing everything we can. We'll release v1.3 later this year (look for announcements soon), and we're already planning the 2.0 release that will follow that.

    Widely used and supported? Well, we're working on that. Our customer list continues to grow; more importantly, we're continuing to work with partners. Part of the reason we're here at the Worldwide Partner Conference is to talk to software vendors.

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