It's a preview party at Microsoft, but do you really want an invite?

Developers are not alone in losing track of which platform to back

Microsoft has a very long history, but the company's attention span seems to be shrinking, which is making it difficult to decide which products have a future and which might be shot behind the shed.

It's a longstanding problem for developers. While product development and tech updates were relatively stable towards the end of the last century, Microsoft has since moved the development goalposts so often and so quickly that keeping up with its moves can be a full-time job.

Some of the technologies, like Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), have found their way into open source, as others, like Silverlight, have become obsolete.

Even one of the more recent technologies, .NET MAUI (Multiplatform App UI), is attracting ire from developers who question the company's commitment to the platform.

However, it isn't just coders dealing with Microsoft's increasingly fickle ways. Mary Jo Foley at analyst Directions on Microsoft, has warned of the company's tendency to leave things in perpetual preview. This is something we suspect it picked up from Google, whose Gmail beta lasted five years.

Several on-premises legacy products have been in Microsoft's crosshairs for some time. And it makes sense. It is easier for the company to shift customers to subscriptions for cloud services than to deal with perpetual licensing.

Foley notes that Visio, Project, and Access could be among the products that Microsoft might scrap. "The rule of thumb: Don't invest in a Microsoft product in which Microsoft itself is lessening its investment," she said.

However, just as developers have learned over the years, Microsoft has a habit of rolling something out as a preview and never actually making it GA. After all, if you never reach GA, you never have to issue a Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Foley said: "We've found the longer a Microsoft preview, the less likely a technology will reach GA."

Of course, even if something reaches GA, there's no guarantee that all the services it depends on will be in the same state. And then there is the thorny issue of quality – only the company's most ardent apologists would insist that GA releases of Windows 11 are of release quality in the same way as earlier iterations.

A sceptic might also wonder if Microsoft's habit of throwing a product out in preview and moving on is more about sowing uncertainty in a given marketplace rather than a desire to make something commercially available.

Today's Microsoft is focused on AI. However, with many services carrying the preview tag and developers wondering where their next kicking will come from, enterprises and coders alike are treating the company's professed commitment to any given platform with caution. ®

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