I'm attending the Microsoft Professional Developer's Conference in October. The big subject is Longhorn, the next version of Windows after XP, and the underlying technologies.
All the pre-PDC talk about how great everything is and how complicated and how cool and how mystical is scaring me. (I'm talking about the PDC bloggers and the .NET guys…). I know a lot of these guys are young and excited, so perhaps it is forgivable, but I hope the older cooler heads will remind them that the purpose of the PDC is to communicate new tools to the developer community so they can use them. MS is best served by having developers say “oh, that’s easy, I could do that”, rather than saying “oooh, how cool, I wonder if I could ever do that”. You want people to say “oh”, not “oooh”.
If you look at any technology which targets developers, the adoption rate and ultimate adoption percentage are a function of how easy it was. HTML was easy, the adoption rate and percentage were very high. Java was pretty easy, and the early adoption was good, but J2EE is not easy and the later adoption has not been that good. (Many more people program in Java than build applications using J2EE architecture.) COM was not easy. COM+ was not easy. DCOM was not easy. So far I have not found .NET to be easy, in fact even just understanding what it is was hard, let alone how you use it. MS does not have a history of making things easy, and this has hurt them. The things MS did which were easy were the most successful – look at VB, for example.
My sense is that the attitude of a lot of the MS presenters and attendees at the PDC is not “let’s make this easy”. Instead it is “let’s show how cool this is” (and by extension how cool we are). And that isn't going to make for fast adoption.
Why do I care? I want it to be easy. I've been programming for thirty years, I can do anything. But I don't use tools which aren't easy, because I firmly believe W=UH (wrongness = ugliness times hardness), and if something is hard, it is wrong. Right now Longhorn and all its associated technologies feel hard. I hope the PDC changes my mind, but I'm not optimistic...
[ Later: considering reactions, More Oh not Oooh... ]