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Microsoft and Agile - Divergent Agendas?

Recent events raise the question: is Microsoft at risk of making Agility harder for developers who work on their platforms? Do their development tools get in the way? Is it too hard, or perhaps even dangerous, to promote Agile techniques that change the way we work with Microsoft products? Now's the time to speak up.

Two recent events suggest that Microsoft is not as effective as it might be at embracing the Agile community: the company is threatening Jamie Carsdale with legal action to get him to withdraw his TestDriven.Net extension from VisualStudio Express, and Martin Fowler has been questioning its grip on leading-edge developers, the "alpha-geeks". As Martin points out, Microsoft's development of an incompatible rival to NUnit alienated many developers, especially as it only shipped with higher-end versions of VisualStudio. One could argue that TestDriven.Net only exists because Microsoft left a gap in the ecology.

It's hard to judge the legal merits of the TestDriven.Net case from the outside; both Jamie and Microsoft's product manager Dan Fernandez seem pretty sure of their positions. What's clear from reading the comments on their respective blogs and on forums such as SlashDot is that Microsoft is not winning any popularity contests right now. Even if Microsoft turns out to be right, goes to court and wins, they risk a publicity wreck like the  "McLibel" case.

As Martin wrote, there are people within Microsoft trying to improve things: Peter Laudati asks for continued feedback, and the VisualStudio team achieved a lot by getting out a free version of their software. Others, such as Sam Gentile, a long-standing convert to Agile, fear that Microsoft and the programmers it targets (the "Morts") don't understand how Agile development works.

The risk for the Agile community is a widening divide between Microsoft and Agile developers, as each pursue different visions. Given Microsoft's dominance in the market, that isn't going to make our lives any easier. This makes it important that we speak up, urging Microsoft product managers to deliver the infrastructure we need.

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