In order to support non-.Net developers working in mixed-platform environments, Microsoft has announced its .Net Framework Developer Center web portal.
Officially live since its soft launch in July, the site brings together existing content in a format designed to be accessible to software engineers with experience in non-Microsoft platforms, frameworks and languages, such as PHP, Java, JSP and ColdFusion. With few developers working in a single-platform environment throughout their entire career, Microsoft says the site will help boost interoperability throughout the industry.
The .Net Framework Developer Center features a five-step plan to help developers get a basic grounding in .Net, along with a selection of links to articles, books and tutorials, some of which are drawn from the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) and some of which are independent. The .Net Framework itself, including Asp.Net web-development technology, is available free alongside the Express edition of Visual Studio.
Core to the ideology behind a resource of this kind, according to Microsoft, is the belief that many developers don't realise that the entire .Net Framework, and specific versions of the Visual Studio IDE and compilers, are free to download and use commercially.
At the same time, critics suggest that the resource has been designed to promote Microsoft technologies to an as-yet untapped audience.
"Building a greater understanding of .Net inherently boosts interoperability and allows developers to assess technology choices from a broader base. The focus isn't so much on 'winning over' developers to .Net, but rather adding a string to their bow, making sure that they're aware that .Net development can be free and helping to dispel myths and fears," said Ian Moulster, product manager for the .Net platform at Microsoft UK. "Of course, getting more people on the .Net platform is a good thing for us, but we recognise that, for many individuals, this will be an additional skill rather than a replacement."
At this early stage Microsoft is not soliciting direct feedback from users. But, over time, Microsoft says it will focus on building relationships with developers who request specific help and want to engage at a deeper level.