Friday, December 13, 2002

Being set straight

My old college buddy (and crack programmer) SS comments on my IBM, Microsoft, and Rational musings:
I think your last blog entry misses on a technical point- "But why does Microsoft, which already makes such great dev tools, want to buy Rational?". Their dev tools have little overlap besides source control.

The Visual Studio environment, for VB, C++, and now C#, is basically the best integrated development environment (IDE) out there. Rational has a number of products, but no IDE. Rational's major product is ClearCase, basically a source control tool, and is the premier tool on the market. MSFT's primary source control tool, SourceSafe, sucks ass. I think they bought some other company that does source control a few years ago but I know nothing about that product. Besides that, Rational makes profiling, analysis, and UML design tools that MSFT does not have, to my knowledge. So I see a potential Rational acquisition by MSFT as fairly complementary in terms of technology, price considerations aside.
So now I know better from the technical side, but I'm still flummoxed on the business side. Given that IBM already has a bid in, Microsoft will have to pay a very steep price premium to buy Rational. Their software, while complementary, seems to be the type of thing that Microsoft should be able to do quite well, so I still don't understand why MSFT thinks it's worthwhile to shell out all that dough.

And while I'm being set straight, Joel Spolsky (always worth reading) says it's vacuous to over generalize and say things like MSFT is bad at operating systems. My point was that I think Microsoft's applications are so good I wish they would ship them on cheaper OSes (Linux) so more people would buy them instead of shelling out for the overpriced bloatware most enterprise software vendors are choosing to ship. While Apple folks (and I am one of them) like to criticize Microsoft for making hard-to-use software, I encourage them to use Lotus Notes before moaning about Outlook. I think Microsoft's OS obsession is now keeping them from delivering the best apps they can deliver, and we're all poorer for that.


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