Visual Studio 2010 Professional Should be Free

Microsoft has created yet another SKU for Visual Studio 2010, Ultimate Edition.

This is out of hand.

  • Visual Studio Express editions Basic CMYK
  • Visual Studio Professional
  • Visual Studio Premium
  • Visual Studio Ultimate
  • Visual Studio Test Professional
  • Visual Studio Team Foundation Server
  • Visual Studio Lab Management

The express editions are free of charge but weirdly crippled:

  1. Rather than being features extending the base IDE, there are entirely separate Express IDEs for each language.
  2. The source control plugin API is missing
  3. Extremely limited refactoring (at a time when the refactorings in the full edition don’t compare well to Eclipse or Netbeans)
  4. No conditional breakpoints
  5. No remote debugging
  6. No thread debugging
  7. No support for compiling 64-bit native images
  8. No support for setup projects
  9. No support for solutions which contain projects written in different languages (because of item #1).
  10.   No MS Office development support.
  11.   No VSIX extensions (like this spell checker).

And apparently, you don’t have access to F# and IronPython languages with any Express edition. What?

Visual Studio Professional is the vanilla full-featured version of Visuals Studio 2010.

Visual Studio is really the mechanism by which developers add value to Microsoft’s platforms. It is used to build applications that people actually use. We are not living in the gay 90s anymore when compilers were generally very expensive and IDEs were new and a huge value-add. Now, every platform vendor I can think of except for Microsoft gives away the best development tools it can in order to draw developers to it.

Here are some examples:

  • Apple gives away XCode and all its developer tools and documentations to anyone that registers.
  • Eclipse is free and open source.
  • Netbeans is free and open source

Visual Studio Express editions do not have parity with the features of XCode, Netbeans and Eclipse. Visual Studio Professional is much closer.

But to get Visual Studio Professional, you have to be student or faculty at an institution participating in the Microsoft Academic Alliance program, an employee of a Microsoft Certified Partner or you or your employer have to buy an MSDN subscription every year. There are now 6 MSDN subscription SKUs.

  • MSDN Operating Systems
  • MSDN Embedded
  • Visual Studio Professional with MSDN
  • Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN
  • Visuals Studio Premium with MSDN
  • Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN

These range in price from $699 to $11,899 retail with the “Professional” version weighing in at $1,199 ($799 for a renewal). The Operating Systems one doesn’t even come with Visual Studio which makes no sense at all. Why offer developers a subscription to your operating systems without giving them the tools to develop applications on the operating systems?

This state of affairs is out of control.

I don’t have any issue with Microsoft selling value-adds over and above of Visual Studio Professional (e.g. Premium, Ultimate, Professional Tester, Team Server, etc.) to compete with IBM Rational and Perforce et al in the application lifecycle management and enterprise architecture modeling stuff and build management and testing.

But rather than trying to squeeze 800 bucks a year out of developers, Microsoft should discard the Express editions of Visual Studio and make Visual Studio 2010 Professional available at no cost to anyone with a valid copy of Windows.

Otherwise, Microsoft is literally driving startups and young developers to other platforms which offer fully functional free tools from vendors like Apple, IBM, Oracle (Sun), Novell, Red Hat and Canonical.

And when I say free I don’t mean crippled or ad supported. In order to keep the Windows platform relevant, Microsoft needs to make credible modern tools available to anyone that might be interested. That means Visual Studio 2010 Professional should be a free download.



11 Responses to Visual Studio 2010 Professional Should be Free

  1. Makach says:

    Good post. Wholeheartedly agree. This post answered exactly what I was googling for.

  2. Casanegro says:

    Are you out of your minds?! One of the few things separating elegant application development like Visual Studio and .net from run-of-mill cheap open source development like Java, RoR and (dare I say, PHP(BARF!!!!)) development is the cost of entry. It’s what separates the men from the boys.

    I’ve been developing for more than 10 years now and have never even dared using open source tools for the reason that you can never trust anything you can get for free (especially in the software dev. industry). In fact, each time my clients start contemplating shifting to an open source platform, I simply tell them “You’ll get what you pay for.” That scares the **** out of ’em like it should.

    Give away VIsual Studio Professional for free??? LOL!!! Please keep your opinion to yourselves.

  3. Petter says:

    I for one think that the Express editions are extermely powerful.Actually I changed from my paid version of DreamWeaver to Visual Web Develope Express 2005 back in the days because it was so much more powerful (for MS programming languages anyway).

    I think that MS does a great job giving away these great products, and then letting those who really can pay for special features pay for them. Now I own VS2010 professional (via WebSiteSpark) but I actually use the Express edition anyway as it’s smaller in size.

    So, thanks Microsoft for the Express editions! (BTW, perhaps quality control and development of VS works better because there are paid versions, thus a revenue stream for MS. So I think it would be a shame to make VS pro freeware.)


  4. Nick says:

    Casanegro: Are you joking? How can you trust development tools that are closed source? Open source tools are better quality, free and give developers much more choice. If you develop using Microsoft’s languages and APIs you are completely locked in. Idiot.

    • Brian Reiter says:

      @Nick: “If you develop using Microsoft’s languages and APIs you are completely locked in.”

      That’s really not the case.

      Mono is an FOSS .NET runtime implementation
      Grasshopper allows running ASP.Net applications inside of a Java servlet container.
      The F# language compiler and libraries are FOSS
      ASP.Net MVC is open source and runs on Mono
      The .NET Framework source code is available for your own code-quality review in look-but-don’t-touch form.
      Moonlight is a FOSS implementation of Silverlight for Linux/*ix. The Microsoft implementation runs on Windows and OS X.

      Yes it is possible to paint yourself into a corner but reasonable use of patterns isolates your risk. It is very possible to target multiple platforms. It depends on what you are doing. There is a continuum of openness. In my world, everything doesn’t have to be GPLv3 to have a useful degree of openness.

      • Kane says:

        Also, lest we forget the most basic counter argument…

        Why should M$ give their package away for free just because people want it for free?

        If it was a lower quality product then people would just ignore it, and if people want it why shouldn’t they be made to pay for it? If I created a tool I certainly wouldn’t just give it to someone else for free just because they think it should be free.

      • Brian Reiter says:

        “M$”? Do you really expect people to take you seriously when you use that petty abbreviation?

      • Mary says:

        but be honest, M$ is doing everything to lock-in their clients, Mono is a practically almost died-project. While .NET is on version 4.5 Mono is on 2.0 and not completely developed and you cannot use WCF or Winforms, so they have to use GTK+ which is quite different. Of course M$ use that project for people that inocentlly think oh! is FOSS how good is M$ Thanks. But actually is less that the express editions. Microsoft don’t bother in users only money. Can you imagine how much $ many enterprises have to throw away due to the switch from VS and Win32 API to .NET? without take in account that project that were in .NET 1.0 had to be modified vastly to be at the pace of Microsoft?. As always is a matter of money not quality or customer convenience. MVC is open source but what for sure the version 3 doesn’t work on Mono or maybe (as it happened with other microsoft products) at some point the license said something like “This product is only for use on windows platform” and you know what? Mono cannot do anything in such matter.

        If you want pay part of your work (or M$ tax) to the wealthiest man in the world is your choice. and the freedom is not a matter of money have you ever read the GPL?. fortunately M$ is diying thanks to Apple and Google, but unfortunately some of the worst M$ business practices are threatening the industry with them too, but at least there are more choices now we aren’t in the 90s.

        Finally FOSS is to get the information and technology closer to the poor not only to the rich, only for that reason FOSS should be the developers flag. And the money, well I prefer to be contracted and gain some money fixing or enhancing FOSS from many clients that work and share to Bill my own work each two or three years and every new project, I think he has much money than he can spend.

  5. Tuen Wong says:

    Agreed! It should be free. This is a question of survival for Microsoft.

  6. Adam says:

    I understand you want something free to be more effective, everyone wants free and easy tools. Why the entitlement? For young developers, students can get it free through if their school is signed up for it. For new businesses, get a small loan and develop something to save money elsewhere or develop to make money.

  7. Tuen Wong says:

    I personally want free development tools for developing apps for Windows 8 as it is the case with Android Studio to develop apps for the Nexus 7. I have to make a choice right now. Where will I be going? Android indeed and I challenge anyone to say the contrary. The success of Windows 8 and Microsoft primarily depends on the apps. Microsoft is here to facilitate the development of such apps. It is sad to see Microsoft not change it’s business model and slowly dye.

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