Based in Seattle, S 'Soma' Somasegar is senior vice president in Microsoft's developer division, where he leads the teams responsible for providing tools and platform technologies targeted at developers, designers and teams involved in software development.
In his various roles within the company, Soma has witnessed fundamental changes, in both Microsoft and the wider software industry, that have affected not just the look and feel of applications but also the methodologies that have driven their development.
Surveying today's application-development landscape, with Microsoft keen to convince that it has a credible open-source strategy, Soma's role leads him to oversee many of the company's best known proprietary offerings.
Faced with the challenge of straddling both sides of this fence, while, at the same time, reaching for new strains of web-driven software development, he said he is confident that Microsoft's insistence upon the importance of collaborative development will allow the company to weather the ever-changing climate that envelops software code development. ZDNet.co.uk spoke to him about his thoughts on the road ahead.
Q: You are extensively educated and well travelled. What drew you to serve your tour of duty with Microsoft?
A: Actually, Microsoft is the only company I have worked for. I came to the US to study for my masters degree and even started a PhD right afterwards up in Buffalo, which is on the Canadian border in upstate New York.
I had made some job applications after my masters and, to be honest, I could really only handle one winter in Buffalo. So, when I got the chance to join Microsoft and develop my passion for system-level programming, the choice was simple.
Your remit at Microsoft covers Visual Studio Team System for professional software-development teams, but also Visual Studio Express and Popfly for non-professional developers and hobbyists. With Expression Studio for designers under your belt too, isn't that a slightly over-bundled set of products to oversee?
Let me answer that by giving you some context as to why those product groups are together. For a long time, we were focused on the individual software developer, and that really formed the bedrock of our mission throughout the late '80s and early part of the '90s.
But, towards the end of the last decade, we realised that we needed to take a more global approach and bring aspiring hobbyists into our community, as these guys were going to form the next generation of professional programmers.
When you combined that factor with what was happening at the other end of the spectrum — where teams were becoming more sophisticated, specialised and globally distributed — it was easy to see that there was a gaping hole, in collaborative terms. Analysts, testers, designers, architects and programmers themselves needed a unifying set of tools, and that is what we have been working to build.
Given your proximity to Visual Studio Team System, it's no surprise to see that you view collaboration as one of the greatest challenges in software development. Why haven't we got something so fundamentally simple as talking to each other right yet?
Essentially, this is all part of the argument for software application-lifecycle management (ALM) and there have been a whole bunch of vendors out there trying to develop solutions in this area for at least a decade now.
What we haven't seen so far, from any company, is a set of tools that will produce a seamless flow of information detailing all aspects of the software lifecycle.
If we can achieve this, then every member of the team can be made more productive. Our back-end data store in this space is Team Foundation Server, and it forms a vital part of our Visual Studio Team System offering. But no vendor, including Microsoft, has perfected this yet. There is a ton more we can do.
ZDNet.co.uk has a vibrant community of bloggers who are not afraid to voice their opinions and vent their technical spleen on the subjects they are passionate about. As a keen technical blogger yourself, what advice would you give our community to promote readability and interest?
For me, the world is getting smaller and becoming a more connected space. The fact that I can engage in conversations on the web and get live feedback on our products, as well as those of our competitors, from all around the world is what makes blogging so rewarding. Having that two-way constructive dialogue is invaluable.
In terms of advice, all I can say is that you need to remember that blogging is not like writing a speech. It's a conversation. You need to speak from the heart and, that way, you'll generate the most interest and achieve the highest possible level of readability.
You oversee the Microsoft India Development Center (IDC) in Hyderabad. Has the subcontinent finally shifted its reputation for being the outsourcing workhorse for the rest of the world and started to build a reputation for software development in its own right?
That shift has happened for sure. There is real hard-core research and development going on now, and it's not just in Bangalore either. Hyderabad is really just one of four or five major IT hubs that have now started to flourish in India, along with…