MSDN subscription: To buy or not to buy

Yeah, that's quite the question. The forthcoming release of Visual Studio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 brings with it a change in the MSDN subscription program.

Right now you can get a Universal subscription for about $2,400 which more or less will get you everything that Microsoft currently makes. When the new version is out, there are essentially two higher levels above Universal (which will be called Visual Studio Professional Premium or some such nonsense). The next highest level includes one of the Team System skus, either for architects, developers or testers, because some moron at Microsoft seems to think that these are actually discreet roles in every organization. That'll cost around $5,500. If you want all three versions, plus the Team System server product, that'll cost you more than $10k. No thanks.

I do want Windows Vista and Office 12 when they come out, but the truth is that I can get that with the Pro-Premium version when it comes out. They're saying $2,500, but I suspect it will be less at retail. The Team System tools aren't worth it all split up like that, so they won't get my money for that. If I buy the Universal subscription today, I get upgraded to one of the $5,500 versions at no cost, so I guess I might as well.

Microsoft has really taken one step forward and two steps back this time around, and it's annoying. They're making the cost of entry into their platform inexpensive even for the hobbyists with sub-$100 development environments (the Express line), yet they're pricing the good tools ridiculously high, and fragmenting the features all over the place. Stupid. On one hand they see the money in selling server licenses so they'll get you in cheap, but then bend you over if you really want to get the most from the platform. I still say that the cost of software isn't a big deal compared to the cost of labor, but they still don't get that independent developers like me are the ones pushing clients to use Microsoft in the first place. It makes our jobs that much harder when open-sores people are screaming "free! free! free!" to the same people I'm trying to sell.

I bought a subscription shortly after being laid-off back in 2001, and it changed my life. This time around, I'm not so sure I need to take that leap, because now I know how to be profitable, and the only thing I need (as opposed to want) is Visual Studio.


  • I was under the impression the only thing that you get in the Team System versions over the others is integrated unit-testing and object modeling. I say screw that and keep using NUnit and Rose (or Visio). It didn't seem like anything completely necessary - just "nice to haves". But since my money is also "nice to have", I will opt to keep it I think.

  • That pricing is too high for us developers who push our clients to also use Microsoft software.

    So, To buy or not to buy? Not to buy. Period.

  • Considering the ridiculous price of Microsoft software, $5,500 for access to nearly all of it is not a bad deal, especially if it's deductible.

  • I continue to be amazed and amused at people saying TS' price point is too high. Let me say that we spend more in 6 months on staff salary to maintain our current SDLC tools than we would buying new stuff for all our developers/architects and testers (yes, we are actually split up like that!).

    Our current tools are created by the very well you know who bought the even better known 3 letter giant.

    Forgive me if this doesn't apply to you, but most of the people who complain about the price of TS don't have a change managmenent and SDLC environment set up, and hence simply don't know what the true costs are (try 2.5 configuration specialist and 70 hours in-house support every 3-6 months). The TCO of TS is well below their competition, end of story.

  • err..the were bought by, they didn't buy IBM...sorry :)

  • I think you're a little out of touch, Karl, because I'm sure that "most" of the people that complain could certainly use these tools. The testing part in particular, in an era of test-driven development, is as basic and necessary as the debugger.

  • I'm not saying they can't use it...I'm saying they currently don't..or atleast not to the full extent that TS/Rational provide - else they'd understand what the real costs are. If you aren't already using Rational, trust me, 10K is a fraction of the total cost of ownership for a single license.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is that this type of software development and process and management costs that much money to make. Yes it would be nice if this became available to a wider audience, because as you state, most of the people could certainly use these tools. But that simply isn't a market-reality. This is a product meant for a proven market. This is a product Microsoft decided to make money on, good for them and their shareholders, maybe it's shortsighted - who knows..

    It isn't until you've paid for and used the competition's product that you realize how good a deal your getting. And if you disagree, keep using the alternatives.

  • But you're assuming that I haven't. This is all old-hat when you've worked in a huge IT-driven company (Progressive was my experience, where they've been using externalized rules and workflows for years, by the way). I don't particularly find it a good deal. As an independent I don't find it to be a good deal either.

  • I really wasn't assuming in your case, i knew I'd likely be wrong :) But I still think my points are valid in many cases. I experienced this first hand at TechEd where the first TS Cabana talk turned into something similar to this and I was shocked at people's strong view on this.

    I do think MS is doing the right thing. I think they are offering a better product at a lower price than their main competitor. it would be nice if it was free...but that applies to just about everything :)

  • I have to agree with much of what you have said. But, I think the real point is that MS has moved away from small independant developers and have their eyes (along with drool marks) set on a much more expensive corprate market.

    This is probably a good move for MS, but it is a bad one for many of us who really cannot afford to shell out $2,500-$10,000 per developer per year, not to mention all the licenses to systems in our businesses for production use (anything not specifically developer related). I do not know about you, but for me it is really getting in the way of making a buck!

    If it were not for a few tools I use on Windows (like VS), I probably would have moved my camp into the Linux world some time ago. The truth of the matter at this point is that I just cannot find enough quality products to build .NET web applications solutions on Linux yet. Maybe in the future!

  • Well Theres your FIRST problem. You are using .NET as your platform. Get rid of the insecure and easily broken platform and move on to something that is here to LAST> M$ will NEVER make a platform that will last through the years. They are ONLY worried about making a platform for 3-5 years THEN making something TOTALLY new and abandon-ware is left. It is a SAD fact folks. Get use to M$ forking you up the bong hole for the rest of your career, OR move to a new platform. I have moved to the new platforms!!!

  • That's a super intelligent response. .NET has been around seven years.

  • Must be living under a rock. .NET has been around quite some time and isn't going anywhere any time soon. Microsoft isn't perfect, but talk to any non-biased developers who have been working successfully in both open source and Microsoft development platforms and you'll never hear that ridiculous garbage.

    Microsoft IS NOT that expensive. Unless you're developing as a hobby for free, the cost is ridiculously low for what you get. Hardly any individual NEEDS a full MSDN subscription, yes that's geared more for corporation. Visual Studio can be bought for only a couple hundred dollars - that's nothing for a job than can easily net you anywhere from $50-100K+ a year. There are very few features anyone needs beyond Pro or even Standard editions.

    So many ignorant people - do a little research and actually work with a product before spouting this nonsense.

  • I had to let the subscription slip I just could not afford it anymore. So I am on an old license and we are using other tools and Microsoft is used for office stuff and debugging other products if a bug comes up. We are using other computer languages to develop the meat an potatoes applications and yes they cost money but the is alot more bang for the buck. Independent developers like myself just can afford the Microsoft tax. when they converted my universal I was then started paying 5K+ or nearly 6k a year for the same tools I previously had for less. Needless to say I was not happy. Especially for the extra features / tools that I cared nothing for but I I wanted the source control you are boned.

    Well time to leave and use other tools. maybe micro soft will suffer for this mistake and boning the little guy.

    Now I steer folks away from microsoft and towards other better proven technoligies. Customers get sick of being taken advantage of

  • I think you're doing it wrong, man. VS2008 with MSDN Pro is $1,050 on Amazon, which includes SQL Server. Who really needs the higher levels?

    The productivity gained from VS alone is worth every dime. I'd love to know what the other "better" and "proven" technologies are or how any of the licensing is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of human beings to build and maintain stuff on *any* platform.

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