Microsoft officials are undaunted by the popular LAMP (Linux Apache MySQL Perl/Python/PHP) application stack that serves as an open source rival to the Microsoft .Net platform.
Touring to promote the company's upcoming Visual Web Developer Express Edition and ASP.Net 2.0, officials meeting with InfoWorld on Thursday questioned whether free open source actually means less expensive when it comes time to develop and deploy.
"ASP.Net is a component of the .Net Framework. By its own right, it's available for free," said Brian Goldfarb, technical product manager of the Developer Division at Microsoft. "[Visual Web Developer Express Edition] will be discounted to zero in most cases, and that tool is hands-down the best tool for building ASP.Net applications."
The Visual Web Developer Express product is to be priced at $49 retail, with discounts available. ASP.Net is the company's Web application framework that is part of Windows and supported in the company's development tools. Visual Web Developer Express is intended to focus exclusively on Web development and is being positioned as an easy-to-use and easy-to-learn tool. Both the tool and ASP.Net are due by the end of the year, along with the entire Visual Studio 2005 platform.
Countering the MySQL database component of LAMP, Microsoft will offer its SQL Server Express product as a free, lower-end version of the company's SQL Server enterprise database.
As for Linux, although it may appear free (unlike the commercially sold Windows OS), it also has costs involved, the officials said. Development on LAMP can take more time than on Windows, and time means money, they argued.
"I think that anyone who has built an application using our tools on ASP.Net 2.0 and Windows and SQL Server has found that they can typically do it faster than they can on Linux, and that translates into huge cost savings," said Scott Guthrie, product unit manager of Web Platform & Tools at Microsoft.
The open source Eclipse development platform, according to Guthrie, is focused on Java and does not include a WYSIWYG design tool for PHP. "It doesn't provide a Web experience, and [Visual Web Developer Express Edition] does," Guthrie said.
The editor of the O'Reilly OnLAMP.com Web site devoted to LAMP, who goes only by the name "chromatic," said it is Microsoft trying to catch up to LAMP rather than the other way around. Developers 10 years ago found other tools to use while Microsoft was late to the Internet, he said.
"I think [Microsoft] realized a lot of people were publishing real well without using any of their tools by using LAMP" in an early incarnation, according to chromatic.
As far as which platform is the lower-cost choice, chromatic said LAMP is less expensive when it comes to licensing and hardware requirements whereas Microsoft probably gets the edge if the project involves legacy Microsoft systems.
Despite past delays, Microsoft is vowing to release its Visual Studio 2005 platform, including ASP.Net 2.0 and Visual Express Web Developer Edition, in the second half of this year.
"I will say we're doing everything in our power to ship it," but it will not ship until customers deem it ready, Goldfarb said.
Asked if he could guarantee shipment in 2005, Goldfarb responded, "I don't have the authority to guarantee that."
ASP.Net 2.0 will support XHTML markup by default as well as validation against the IE 6, Mozilla, and Opera browsers. Compliance with regulations pertaining to handicapped access to Web sites is also featured.
Both Visual Web Developer Express and ASP.Net 2.0 are now out in beta releases.