Monday, July 07, 2008

Redefining free

From the website,
ASP.NET is a free technology that allows anyone to create a modern web site.
and from the getting started page,
All you need to get started with ASP.NET is the free .NET Framework and the free Visual Web Developer.
I am now wondering whether Microsoft is now issuing also free licenses to Windows, so that as a Macintosh owner, I can actually use the technology. No, not so much. Perhaps they need a superscript asterisk*.
*Requires the purchase of a qualified Microsoft Windows operating system.


Tom said...

So for me to develop an application for OS X, I have to buy not only a copy of Apple's similarly proprietary OS, but ALSO their hardware?

That's surely worse??

(I'm a Microsoft developer, typing this comment on a MacBook, before you start)

Nathan Herring said...

It's a toss-up, IMO.

Apple makes you buy the hardware, but gives you the current OS with it, and the developer tools are entirely free.

Microsoft makes you buy some hardware from someone, buy the OS (which might have come with the hardware as an OEM license), get express editions of the tools for free (but pay for full versions).

There are a bunch of variables here (hardware stability, market penetration, quality of tools, "feel" of development/os environment) to which people ascribe different weights. I certainly can't answer this question for everyone.

I was simply pointing out that ASP.NET's presumption is that all people have Windows (even people browsing the site with Safari, and a user agent specifying Mac OS X), making the use of ASP.NET "free." To me, that statement comes off as arrogant.

To go one further, we could escape the Apple/Microsoft dichotomy, and look at the cost of creating a web server farm. Sure, the tools for ASP.NET are free, but the servers are not -- the licenses for Windows may be the limiting factor (vs. some Linux distro.)

So "free" remains somewhere in the realm between misleading and spin.