Express Editions to remain free permanently


I've been waiting a long time for this. Microsoft has announced that Visual Studio 2005 Express Edition will be free permanently. Finally I have a chance to proclaim that Microsoft has done something very very good. Not since I owned an Apple //e was I able to write programs at the same quality as professional programmers (remember the Beagle Bros). For the last couple of years I have used #Develop for all my personal C# development. The biggest reason was because it was free and if anyone asked me how they could write programs like mine, I could point them down a successful path. Before that I was a big fan of HTML Applications for the simple reason that they were free to develop. I'm convinced that free access drives innovation. When I was in high school, I worked for a contractor who had taught himself Basic and had written a program to help him bid jobs more quickly and accurately. Next thing you know he's running a business and hiring programmers (me and my friends) to rewrite his app in C. Later, in college, I worked for Price Club and was surprised (then) to learn that when they had first started out, they had a position in the warehouse called the EDP operator. This person would run the evening reports on the cash register system which usually printed out on cash register receipt tape and then they would enter it, by hand, into and AS400 terminal. One of the early EDP operators taught himself Basic and started writing all kinds of apps to speed up the process as well as enable him to do more in his position. Eventually, his programs were adopted across the company and he was promoted up to corporate headquarters where he designed new system that professional programmers (me and my coworkers) would implement and deploy.

I firmly believe this is a big reason that Linux has really taken off. It's not that it's particularly better (I'm a geek, remember, I understand the religious arguments on both sides), but rather the fact that its particularly accessible to students and hobbyists without deep pockets. I know people running ISPs that spend tons of time running their business on Linux boxes. They'd love to run Windows Server 2003, get regular updates on Windows Update rather than scour the internet for patches that they then have to recompile. But the fact is they can't afford to do it any other way. Frankly, it boggles my mind how my webhost can do it and make money.

Update: Many links have been updated as they have died in the time since I wrote this. I am now hosting this website on GitHub, but previously used Dreamhost, who I probably moved to because the webhost in the post was too expensive.