April 24, 2005

(Hopefully) Final VSTS Post

I'm honestly hoping this will be my last blog entry on Visual Studio Team System, but I'm thinking it might not be.

On April 20, 2005, Rob Caron posted "A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Visual Studio 2005 Team System, Part II" to his blog. In this article, he breaks down current pricing and the new Team System pricing structure.

So I am going to start by agreeing with some parts of what Rob says. True, the MSDN subscription model has been completely different than other Microsoft subscription models. With MSDN, you buy Subscription X to get Product Y. With other Microsoft products, you buy Product X and you then buy a subscription to Product Y. The exception to that is MSN Explorer, which isn't a product as much as a front-end to your subscription. And true, most people have been undergoing price shock, and as such, the fact that lots of the Enterprise Architect functionality has fallen down into Professional has been missed by several people who have been in the debate.

I'm also going to admit that the public is currently working with limited information. Rob makes several references to an expanded MSDN subscription, but doesn't state what is expanded in it. His entire spiel seems to be that the MSDN subscriptions will no longer contain the development tools, which is fine given his previous logic. Let Software Assurance cover the development tools for those who qualify, let the rest of us pay for our upgrades at reduced prices like we always did, and just give the servers in the subscriptions.

Now for my list of issues, and believe me, this is a long one.

The base value of an MSDN Premium Subscription seems to be $2,299/year plus a one-time $500 setup charge. I get that from looking at your charts. Therefore, following your previous logic, each of the Team System SKU's should be able to retail for approximately $2,670, or $2,170 if you drop the Team Foundation CAL from the bundle. I got that figure by subtracting the price of the MSDN subscription from the first-year price. That price is very competitive with the current price of Enterprise Architect. It makes sense...you roll older functionality into the lower SKU's, and add new functionality to your high-end SKU. It's the Microsoft way.

So why can't I buy the tool seperately? If you want to be treated like other Microsoft products, give us the same set of options. For the type of development that I do, the MSDN Premium subscription is a waste of money. The only subscription that's needed is either MSDN Operating Systems or MSDN Professional.

The other message that I keep getting is that while the new add-ons individually seem like a minor addition to the toolset, it's the Team Foundation integration that makes it all worthwhile. Well, Microsoft Office says the same thing. However, they have a different strategy. Their server integration ships in the box for an affordable price. If people want the collaboration and integration the Office Server System provides, then they pay for the servers. Sharepoint Portal Server retails for $5,619 with 5 CAL's, and the CAL's are $71 each.

You decided to low-ball the server and high-ball the CAL's, which is more than acceptable...but your message has been that if you aren't willing to pay Microsoft yearly, the Team System SKU Functionality is out of your league. Plus, you are also the only Microsoft server product to ship with less than 5 CAL's. Rick LaPlante said in the video that Team Foundation Server only comes with 2 CAL's.

If I buy Office, I get all of the functionality within Office except for the collaboration features which rely on the servers. The Team System SKU's functionality doesn't rely on the servers. Unit tests don't rely on the server. Code coverage doesn't rely on the server. While they can utilize the server, the server isn't necessary.

My other issue with your "messaging" is the Express SKU's. I hear tons of whining saying that "Oh, you can't compare Visual Studio to the Express products because the Express products are new!" Bullshit. I can compare the Express products to the single-language Visual Studio SKU's, and while you say that the Microsoft way is to drop functionality from higher-priced SKU's into the lower-priced SKU's, in the same breath, you killed lots of stuff in the Express SKU's. The Express SKU's are now getting a limited amount of documentation, a limited subset of the debugging abilities available, fewer code templates, web editing as a seperate SKU, limited data support compared to the Standard SKU's, etc.

So, we look at your new pricing structure, and you are at least consistent in one aspect of all of this. Debugging is considered an extra SKU. Visual Studio 2005 Standard is the sum total of all the Express SKU's, with an extra $50 tossed in for the ability to actually debug your code in a reasonable amount of time and a full documentation library.

Finally, the last bit of your message, at least according to Rich LaPlante's video, is that this is an effort to recoup revenues. I fully understand your effort to monetize your market, but now we're seeing the Hyde to the Dr. Jeckyl decision to make Microsoft's earnings more transparent. It used to be that Windows and Office subsidized everything. Because Windows and Office used Visual Studio and Visual Studio enriched their product lines, those products didn't mind subsidizing you. So fine. If you want to monetize your group, do what PSS does and charge the other groups to use your products/services. I can guarantee you'll be funded within minutes.

And Rick LaPlante is right. It is the retail market that's screaming. I should know...I buy retail. So where is my upgrade pricing from Enterprise Architect (Retail) to Team Developer? You pride yourself so much in saying that "nobody pays retail for Microsoft products" that you forget the many of us who do.

You said in the video you've got more messaging coming out in about a month, so you've got a month to think about it. Make retail happy. You know as well as I do that we're the only ones who will be vocal about pricing because if you're under these other miscellaneous pricing programs, you "technically" aren't allowed to talk about your pricing.

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