The Need For Joel

Let’s say you’re a developer programming for the Windows platform. You only just bought Visual Studio 2003 and have been programming in C# for just a short while. When you go online and have a look at websites like “MSDN”:, “the .NET Show”: and the “MSDN Blogs”: you’ll hear people talking nearly exclusively about all the “new exciting technologies” coming from Microsoft in the next few years. Whidbey, Longhorn, Avalon, WinFS, Blackcomb, C# 2.0, generics, ASP.NET 2.0, Indigo. Ehhhh, do I need all of those? It’s all hype about “things that might be released in the next few years”:

Luckily, there’s Joel Spolsky to save you. He’ll tell you exactly how he thinks things are. Sure, there’s a huge community of people screaming you don’t need that Microsoft junk, but it’s refreshing to hear the opinion of someone who used to work for Microsoft, made a conscious choice to use Microsoft products and owns an ISV(Independent Software Vendor).

“About Longhorn”:,1995,1681963,00.asp:

There were a lot of developers who said “That (Longhorn’) is nice. But tell me when my customers have it.” My best estimate for that was 2008, if Microsoft delivered Longhorn in 2006.

One of the things that a lot of people have tried to do — Microsoft, Apple, Sun — is when we went from DOS to GUI (graphical user interface), it was an incredibly good value proposition for your operating environment. Let’s say it was worth $1,000 to go from DOS to GUI. Then we went from Windows 3.X to Windows 95. That was worth upgrading. It was worth $100. Then we went from the Windows 95 generation to the XP generation. Your system crashes a lot less. Worth $5.

Everyone’s been trying to recapture that moment of moving from DOS to Windows. It was worth throwing everything away — all your old DOS applications — in moving from DOS to Windows because it was so much better. But it’s never been the case since then and it probably won’t be unless somebody invents some newfangled thing.

Will people upgrade to Longhorn? Probably, but at a much slower rate than they upgraded to XP. If you look at the different aspects, like Indigo, I’m not really even interested. It’s just a big communications architecture that makes it easier for programmers to build communications things. But there’s no application you can’t build right now because you don’t have a good communications architecture. It might be harder (without it), but it’s not going to enable you to build a whole new class of applications.

Avalon is nice. It’s a very pretty GUI. You’ll be able to make things a little bit transparent. The truth is, we’ve had these bit-mapped displays. And it’s not entirely clear that that in itself will be motivating, although it might be because it looks so much better.

I think XP SP2 (Service Pack 2) is a better upgrade than Longhorn. The Number 1 problem people have with their PCs right now is malware and spyware. And SP2 does a very respectful job of addressing these (and other security) issues. And that’s what people are clamoring for right now.

Also, read “here about Joel’s strategy for moving to .NET”: