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Windows as an application platform: Not sick, but not well either

Windows is losing ground as a platform for application development, according to an Evans Data study. It's not time to write a Microsoft obituary, but the company does need a plan.

Windows is losing ground as a platform for application development, according to an Evans Data study. It's not time to write a Microsoft obituary, but the company does need a plan.


The results of a recent Evans Data study, one that shows Windows popularity to be slipping among developers, have been making their way around the Internet over the last week.

The study, a summary of which is available here, suggests that 65% of North American software developers target the Windows operating system, compared to 12% for Linux. Looks good -- except that last year's survey yielded figures of 74% for Windows and 9% for Linux.

A closer look at the survey, completed by nearly 450 North American developers, shows that, at 46%, Windows XP is far and away the OS most often targeted by developers. There's a two-way tie for second place -- Windows 2003 and "Other" -- at a little under 11%. Red Hat Linux checks in at fourth, at a little more than 7%.

Microsoft is not dead, and it is not dying. Rather, the company's decline in market share is a runny nose.

However, as we all know, a sniffle that remains untreated can leave one bedridden for quite a while, and it can, in rare and unfortunate cases, cause more serious maladies, especially if other symptoms persist.

Accompanying the sniffle is Windows Vista, which we'll call a cough. A perusal of the comment threads on CNET's two stories about the study -- Developers cooling on Windows desktop, study finds and If you're Steve Ballmer, don't read this -- reveals, among other things, that many developers find Vista too bloated, too much of a memory hog and too late to arrive on the scene to be worth rolling out.

Linux, too, is ailing Microsoft, in the form of a headache. Yes, the Linux share of the market is small, but it is growing. As "DieSse" put it, "Well one of my old bosses had a Teletype machine in his office, with a placard on it that said '95% market share is never for ever.'"

The Web browser represents another symptom, possibly a muscle ache -- so chosen because it is treatable. Whether it's Web 2.0, the Rich Internet Application or, perhaps, something called the Outerweb, Microsoft's endeavors with ASP.NET AJAX and Silverlight demonstrate an effort to deal with those aches and pains.

Unfortunately, focusing too much attention on one symptom may merely exacerbate the others. An improved operating system, a demonstrative focus on open-source development and a coherent strategy for the future should, if undertaken properly, produce a clean bill of health for Microsoft.

This sounds ominous, but, after all, remaining healthy once one turns 30 demands increasingly sophisticated measures.

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