MSDN Universal Subscription
What Are You Waiting For?
By Mike Riley
On the eve of the release of Microsoft s most advanced and eagerly anticipated development environment yet, an earnest question presents itself to .NET developers seeking the most cost-effective licensing option for Visual Studio 2005. While local desktop application and basic ASP.NET Web developers may consider Microsoft s VS.NET 2005 Standard Edition, those who consider themselves enterprise architects committed to the Microsoft platform will be eyeing the more powerful enterprise-class editions. Pricing on these come at a cost, but this cost can be mitigated if progressive developers act quickly and take Microsoft up on its current MSDN Universal Subscription offer. In addition to all the bits that this subscription level provides, Microsoft will also provide new subscribers with the ultimate top of the line VS offering, Visual Studio.NET 2005 Team System edition, as soon as it is released. That means within hours of Microsoft s RTM sign-off, MSDN Universal subscribers will have the immediate ability to download this culmination of Microsoft IDE experience.
Figure 1: The MSDN subscription page lists all the assets available for retrieval from the Web site, as well as the specifically generated license keys required to install them.
Upon the release of this new edition of Visual Studio, MSDN subscriptions will be marketed like an add-on to the IDE rather than a standalone product. As such, it will also change the dynamics of the benefits included in the subscription and how its services will be consumed in the future. Such service enhancements for this expanded and more expensive future incarnation will be offered to existing Universal subscribers at no additional cost. Microsoft is essentially rewarding those customers who commit to VS.NET 2005 via purchasing the MSDN Universal Subscription before the final RTM bits are signed off on.
For those developers who haven t been exposed to the level of knowledge, the access to Microsoft s operating system and (specific parts of their) enterprise application library, and the interactive access to the product managers and programmers of these tools, MSDN Universal Subscription has a lot to get excited about. In addition to the plethora of operating systems and applications available on over 10 DVDs, there s quite a lot of value packed into the membership package. The welcome kit includes a comprehensive set of CD-ROMs or DVDs (depending on the media format requested), a handy disc wallet with dividers to organize those stacks of media, a flashy membership card featuring the all-important membership ID, and a number of add-in offers and welcome notices. While the media provides archived access to the world of Microsoft, those developers who prefer more immediate access to the bits, especially when those bits are frequently updated or have been released just after a physical media shipment cycle, the Microsoft File Transfer Manager provides remarkably fast and reliable downloads direct to desktop; these downloads can be queued for a multi-gigabyte overnight download session.
Figure 2: The Microsoft File Transfer Manager provides a fast, easy to use download queue that can deliver new releases faster than any physical media shipment could hope to achieve.
Although the Universal subscription offers a compelling value proposition, there remain a few areas requiring minor improvements. First, MSDN currently only posts a generic RSS feed of MSDN-related announcements. With the momentum continuing to build around RSS feeds, Microsoft should provide a feed per topic or technology, similar to the way they provide individual newsgroups for such areas of focus. Speaking of the membership access to the newsgroups, questions posted on them could take up to 48 hours to get a response; this can be especially nerve-racking once the four phone support incidents that are part of the subscription base are consumed. However, these criticisms are inconsequential to the exceedingly positive advantages this heavyweight subscription package offers to its customers.
MSDN Universal Subscription, soon to morph into the more expensive Visual Studio 2005 Team System with MSDN Premium subscription, is an amazing bargain while supplies last. Serious .NET developers who do not currently have MSDN Universal-level subscriptions should take advantage now of this compelling offer to purchase this extensive collection of Microsoft development-related services and technologies as soon as possible. In addition to receiving Microsoft s pinnacle .NET IDE upon release, the package is the best, if not only, way to economically gain access to the platforms upon which a dominant number of corporations build their business.
Mike Riley is an advanced computing professional specializing in emerging technologies and new development trends. He also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. Readers may contact Mike at mailto:[email protected].