There was a time when I thought Dreamweaver was the best Web development tool that existed. In fact that thought was in my head for several years until about 6 months ago. During the rework of The Nebraska Medical Center’s Web site we began using a different development product that allowed us to work more collaboratively, integrate more tools, and write code that was far more reusable then that of Dreamweaver. Microsoft Expression Blend won our team over, and now I groan each time I have to open up the tossed aside Dreamweaver 8.

Microsoft Expression isn’t something that is commonly discussed among Web developers. I have continually watched for some of the top developers to make mention of it however up to this point it’s been pretty much passed over for such technologies as Rails. The interesting thing is that Expression, more specifically Visual Web Developer allows you to create Web applications with the same speed as other technologies like Rails. The obvious difference is that Microsoft’s file structure, ASP.NET is natively supported by most major business hosting platforms where others require add-on’s or new services to allow them to run.

So why isn’t Microsoft’s line of products taking hold? It’s more likely a number of factors that mainly relate to blunders in the past. Let’s take a look at some of the possible reasons.

  • Microsoft FrontpageThe laughing stock of all Web development softwares, something that Microsoft has yet to live down.
  • Internet ExplorerAnother poor product Microsoft has led us into. The unfortunate thing about this one is no one has the chance to get away from it, so it’s become a hated beast in the Web development world. Another trust problem with Mircosoft.
  • Some of the Expression suite is still in BetaPretty self explanatory, however this again lends to the the fact that Microsoft hasn’t given us the reasons to trust them when it comes to Web development. No one wants to use an unproven product, especially when some of their final releases have been horrendous.
  • Need to learn a new languageThroughout the Web PHP is a dominant language. Not because it’s better necessarily, but because it’s free, and so is it’s most used counterpart MYSQL. ASP.NET is free as well, however the front end to run it requires Microsoft Windows of some sort, and so there is a little bit of cost associated with running it.
  • Need for more expensive Windows hostingThroughout the Web PHP is a dominant language. Not because it’s better necessarily, but because it’s free, and so is it’s most used counterpart MYSQL. ASP.NET is free as well, however the front end to run it requires Microsoft Windows of some sort, and so there is a little bit of cost associated with running it.
  • The industry is afraid of changeSounds very strange doesn’t it. An industry that is full of changes and we are afraid of it? Not quite, although we are afraid to leave our comfort zones.
  • Lack of marketingEven though it’s mostly still in Beta, I haven’t seen any advertisement work for any of these products as of yet. Maybe Microsoft is waiting for a release candidate, however my guess is they will rely on word of mouth.
  • Finally… it’s MicrosoftLet’s face it, Microsoft has left a bad taste in the mouth of Web professionals. Their blatant ignorance of Web standards and compliant browsers have made life hell at one time or another for most of us. This is all without mentioning Windows, Frontpage, and countless other software products that have given us all headaches.

Having used the some of the products and seeing the capability of some of the others, they are extremely impressive. I really do think that Microsoft has turned the corner and is making huge strides in the Web world, and I think that you will see these products being pushed a lot more in the coming months.

Have you heard of or used the Microsoft Expression series of products, if so what are your thoughts?