Developers Developers Developers Developers

Empower program for ISVs -- the boxOk, the video of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in the advanced stages of ecstatic frenzy chanting the “Developers” mantra was funny, but his company took it seriously, and Microsoft really does a better job than any other platform vendor encouraging small companies to write software that runs on the Windows platform. If you’re a software company willing to commit to developing software for any variant of Windows, you can join the Empower Program for ISVs, which entitles you a huge pile of software at the ridiculously low price of $750. You get 5 copies of MSDN Universal (normally $2600 each) … this is the package that includes top-of-the-line versions of every single Microsoft development tool and compiler, and Office, and Visio, and developer copies of every server product, and the MSDN library, and copies of every operating system ever shipped (Greek Windows 98SE? You got it!). Empower also includes 5 copies each of Windows XP, Office XP, and a bunch of servers with 5 client licenses… basically everything you need to develop software for Windows with a team of five programmers for $750.

There was one catch, which is why I refrained from signing up for Empower in the past: you had to go through a fairly annoying sign up process which included lots of non-optional questions about things like your annual revenues and how many employees you have… information points that I didn’t really feel like Microsoft needed to have in their big fat Potential Competitors database, for when Bill Gates woke up one morning and decided to do a SQL query to find all the software companies that were ripe for a little friendly competition from Redmond.

One day Paul Gomes, a developer evangelist working out of Microsoft’s New York office, called me up, as he does quite frequently, to complain about the fact that we were recommending our customers use Windows Server 2000 instead of 2003 for hosting FogBUGZ due to some incompatibilities in the threading model of IIS 6 (which we have since resolved, by the way). “Why didn’t you sign up for Empower?” he asked.

I told him how I thought it was offensive that Microsoft wanted data on my sales and number of employees. “You’re a platform vendor, but also a potential competitor, so I’m sensitive about that stuff,” I said.

“I hear you,” he said, and proceeded to call up the ISV relations group back at Redmond. They called me back and walked through the signup procedure, and I told them which questions I thought were inappropriate. Then they did something which surprised me: they made every one of those questions optional. Not just for me, for everyone.

So I signed up, and got a great big box in the mail with piles and piles of DVDs.

(Now if I could just figure out how to convince them to include Flight Simulator in MSDN Universal…)

Exceptions in the Rainforest

Ned: “The debate over exceptions and status returns is not about whether error handling is hard to do well. We all agree on that. It’s not about whether exceptions make it magically better. They don’t, and if someone says they do, they haven’t written large systems in the real world. The debate is about how errors should be communicated through the code.”

And Now For Something Completely Different

Did you see the mention of the new Fog Creek Office in the Wall Street Journal?


AutomatedQA’s TestComplete is such a slick product and seems to be just as capable as the market leader, Mercury Interactive WinRunner, at less than one tenth the price. Why does anybody pay $6000 a seat for WinRunner?

About the author.

I'm Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Trello and Fog Creek Software, and CEO of Stack Overflow. More about me.