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Microsoft Changes Tune on Expression

Microsoft announced today that its Expression Web product will immediately be included as part of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) Premium subscription. Later this year, subscribers will gain access to Expression Blend, a tool for creating rich user interfaces for Web and desktop applications, the company says.

The move follows an outcry from developers, who had slammed the company for initially charging subscribers a $99 upgrade fee for Expression Web, which shipped in December 2006.

S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate vice president of Microsoft's developer division, acknowledged the public backlash in a post on his blog.

"When we announced Expression Studio last December, we saw great excitement from both the design and development community," he writes in part. "Following the announcement we received a lot of questions about why we did not include some of these products, particularly Expression Web, within customers' MSDN subscriptions. In hearing this feedback, my team started looking into the matter in more detail...One common theme emerged, and that is developers could better collaborate with designers if they had some experience with the new tools the designers are using."

Microsoft has positioned the Expression line as tools for designers, as opposed to developers. Its stated goal is to ease collaboration between the two worker types. Projects started in Expression can be easily shipped over to Visual Studio, where programmers can work on the plumbing.

But MSDN customers complained that Web developers often double as designers. That made Redmond's decision to charge them $99 for an upgrade a "slap in the face," .NET developer Robert McLaws told RDN at the time.

Tuesday's news has McLaws in a happier mood, however.

"Huzzah! Microsoft has finally resolved the disconnect between Expression's marketing and its distribution," McLaws wrote in an e-mail to RDN. "Microsoft may not always get it right the first time, but they always do eventually. It's unfortunate that some developers who now qualify for free copies already purchased the full product, but oh well. I'm just glad I waited. I was going to give in this week and buy it."

However, Microsoft isn't currently planning to make the entire Expression line of products part of MSDN Premium. Somasegar writes that since Expression Design and Expression Media are not specifically geared for developing applications, Microsoft feels "they fall outside the current scope of MSDN subscriptions." (Design, now in beta 2, is an illustration and graphic design tool; Media is an asset management system.)

But those holding premium subscriptions to Visual Studio Team Suite will get the entire Expression line, according to Somasegar's post.

About the Author

Chris Kanaracus is the news editor for Redmond Developer News.

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