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A Developer who dared to Dream
Christo Jacob
Monday, March 3, 2008
The saga of Microsoft and the evolution of the industry in parallel narrate the story of many brilliant minds that have been in the forefront, driving innovation and expanding the technology frontiers. Dr. S. Somasegar, Senior Vice President of the Developer Division at Microsoft Corporation spearheads many innovations that play a crucial role in the development of the company in particular and the developer community in general. He joined Microsoft way back in 1989 as a Software Design Engineer and moved up the ladder, contributing significantly to the development of operating systems at Microsoft. He was the man behind setting up the Microsoft India Development Center in Hyderabad, which is the software giant’s largest development center outside its headquarters in the U.S.A.

Recently, the Chinese Institute of Engineers, U.S.A., awarded Dr. S. Somasegar the Asian American Engineer of the Year Award for 2008. The award was a recognition of his contribution to Microsoft and the developer community.

In an exclusive interview with Silicon India, Dr. Somasegar speaks with relentless energy, recalling what it took him to be recognized as one among the 15 outstanding Asian American professionals.

As a techie hailed for the significant contributions made to the developer community, what are some of the initiatives you have undertaken?
At Microsoft, we have several programs to encourage innovation among budding developers as well as for experienced techies. We recently launched a new program called DreamSpark which aims at building excitement from the ground level and helps developers adopt new technologies and tools. DreamSpark gives students free access to the developer application environment. The availability of Microsoft developer and designer tools such as Visual Studio Professional, Expression Studio, and XNA Game Studio helps students build and develop great applications.

We closely listen to the developer community and conduct surveys to understand their requirements. MSDN and TechNet are great communication channels for us to connect with the developer community and help them be successful using Microsoft technologies. I myself blog actively on http://blogs.msdn.com/somasegar/ and pay close attention to the feedback from readers.

What are the three biggest challenges currently faced by the developers across the world?
If we look back at the evolution of the hardware industry, gone are the days when processors made applications run faster. We are living in a world where we have increased hardware capabilities through multiple cores or mini cores in a single machine. If we need software to take advantage of the increasing hardware capabilities, encouraging parallel programming among the developers is necessary. The developer community has to gear up to achieve competency in this area.

As more users are migrating to applications over the Web and mobile devices, developers can benefit tremendously from a consistent programming model that helps them reuse programming knowledge on different platforms. We are making this a reality by delivering the .NET programming model that spans the client’s web server and mobile devices.

The third challenge is to make sure that our developers and designers work hand-in-hand on different sets of tools to deliver a great user experience. Our tools in Visual Studio and Expression Studio will help a lot here bringing the developers and designers together in such a way that they speak the same xaml language and there is a smooth workflow between the two.

How do you evaluate the current user experience on the Web, versus that in the 1990s?
Media elements like video, audio, and rich visualization have now become integral parts of websites and applications, and help enhance user experience. Microsoft is doing a lot of work in this area. According to market estimates, the next wave of user experience will be in 3D and several companies are working in this area.

There has been a great improvement in customer experience from what it was in 1995. The future holds a lot of potential and Microsoft aims to address the next wave through its platform and tools.

What are some of the key pointers that have not been practiced among developers even now?
Except for a few elite developers, most have not adapted parallel computing, despite the fact that it has been present for the last 35 to 50 years. Concerted efforts are needed to make parallel computing easy so that any average developer can adapt it.

A developer who is building an enterprise application can now use a composite set of tools readily available to him, instead of having to start from scratch. This helps reduce delivery time to customers. However, apart from building interoperable and reusable applications for enterprise customers, developers also need to keep the security aspects in mind and build applications that are highly secure.

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