Update: Star Microsoft Developer Leaves, Cites Philosophical Differences


David Stutz, a luminary in the Microsoft development world, has left the company, citing its inability to get beyond its PC roots in what has become a world of networked applications.

Stutz was general program manager for Shared Source Common Language Infrastructure (CLI) implementation at Microsoft. In a posting to his Web site, Stutz decried the company's failure to embrace both the Web and the networked development infrastructure that best suits Web-based applications. "Windows has yet to move past its PC-centric roots to capture a significant part of the larger network space, although it makes a hell of a good client," he wrote.

In addition, Microsoft tools "have yet to embrace the loosely coupled mind-set that today's leading-edge developers apply to work and play."

Stutz said Microsoft's response to open source has been less than fruitful. "Digging in against open-source commoditization won't work. It would be like digging in against the Internet, which Microsoft tried for a while before getting wise," he wrote in the letter. "Any move toward cutting off alternatives by limiting interoperability or integration options would be fraught with danger, since it would enrage customers, accelerate the divergence of the open-source platform and have other undesirable results. Despite this, Microsoft is at risk of following this path, due to the delusion that goes by many names: 'better together,' 'unified platform' and 'integrated software.' "

Stutz, a self-described "Wonk," and others at Microsoft were trying to move the company more into an open-source mode, industry observers said. Last March, Microsoft released its shared-source CLI and C# implementation, code that runs on both the Windows XP and FreeBSD operating systems. At the time, Microsoft touted the fact that it was offering up more than 1 million lines of code. Microsoft views open-source software--which is highly customizable and often free--as a threat to its business model.

Reached by e-mail for comment, Stutz confirmed that he has left Microsoft "after a number of years in order to pursue my many other interests, which include growing wine grapes and making music. Microsoft was a wonderful place to work."

News of his departure comes at an awkward time, with Microsoft coming off one of its big development conferences, VSLive. A company insider lamented the loss. "It's too bad, because I thought he was making headway here," the insider said.

His work was viewed as critical by many. Aside from his contributions to Visual Basic, VBA, Visual Studio and OLE/COM/DCOM components, Stutz helped invent "a low-level virtualization technology that will be part of future systems releases," according to the bio on his Web site.

In parts of the letter, Stutz exhorted Microsoft to move beyond its PC-centric background and outperform the open-source world. "Why be distracted into looking backward by the commodity cloners of open source? Useful as cloning may be for price-sensitive consumers, the commodity business is low-margin and high-risk. There is a new frontier, where software 'collectives' are being built with ad hoc protocols and with clustered devices," he wrote.

"Robotics and automation of all sorts are exposing a demand for sophisticated new ways of thinking," Stutz continued. "Consumers have an unslackable (sic) thirst for new forms of entertainment. And hardware vendors continue to push toward architectures that will fundamentally change the way that software is built by introducing fine-grained concurrency that simply cannot be ignored. There is no clear consensus on systems or application models for these areas. Useful software written above the level of the single device will command high margins for a long time to come."

Stutz signed off the post, which he described as a sanitized version of his resignation letter, with the comment, "Stop looking over your shoulder and invent something."

Microsoft, which could not initially be reached for comment, said later Friday that Stutz had retired.

"It is not uncommon for recently retired Microsoft employees to write an open letter about what they think works and what doesn't, offering great fodder for internal discussions," the spokeswoman said, adding that Stutz was an important contributor to Microsoft's open source thinking.

"Microsoft agrees with much of the vision Dave has for the future [but] believes that the breakthrough innovations will come mostly from commercial software companies such as Microsoft," she said.