Tuesday Microsoft released WebMatrix. WebMatrix and its supporting technologies (IIS Express, SQL CE and the new ASP.NET “Razor”) is a new free tool from Microsoft for web development. It is a lightweight IDE (not Visual Studio) that provides coding and database support. You can use WebMatrix to select from an open source web application gallery (WordPress, CRM, e-Commerce platforms, etc) to start your application template from. Lastly, WebMatrix makes it easy to publish web sites to web hosting providers (or even help you find one if you don’t have one).
Microsoft is not targeting me, or most of you (professional developers) with this new product. Clearly Microsoft is targeting the students, hackers, hobbyists, and Facebook application developers. The issue is that today most of these developers are using the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PhP) stack. WebMatrix is an attempt to lower that price barrier (all of WebMatrix is free) and level the playing field. The question is will it work?
Ten years or so ago, I would say no, this would not work, Microsoft was the bad guy. Today the perception has changed and Microsoft is perceived as “big corporate” but not the bad guy. Developers look for cost and innovation when deciding what platform to use. LAMP has a huge head start, but Razor makes coding .NET for WebMatrix pretty easy and the template engine allows you to base your application off another’s API, a huge head start when building something custom.
Will Microsoft succeed in winning over mindshare from the LAMP stack? I don’t know, but now they have a fighting chance.