Www.netmf.com

Well, I thought a bit about this question a year ago, and wrote down the following text. Not that anyone would have been interested at the time, of course.

"Obviously, the open source software itself does not generate any revenues, so the benefits for Microsoft can only be indirect. These benefits might be license revenues for Visual Studio, or ongoing revenues for Azure-based services (which however would require prior investments into NETMF support for Azure access, e.g., AMQP).

You could try to guess market numbers for these additional revenues and build up a business case from that, but I think these numbers would be unconvincing and difficult to defend.

Instead, I would rather argue with “What would it mean if Microsoft gave up support for NETMF?”:

  • Microsoft would save the cost of a small team (which is peanuts for Microsoft as a company, I dare say).

  • Microsoft would completely give up its current foothold in the microcontroller space.
    Microcontrollers continue to be shipped in higher volumes than the more powerful microprocessors, for years to come. A market forecast by ARM for 2017: they see an opportunity for 4 bn application processors (as used in smartphones etc.) vs. 23 bn microcontrollers, plus 14 bn real-time processors that fall somewhere in between microcontrollers and application processors.

o Thus Microsoft would have no solution for more than half of all the processors shipped by then (note that Windows CE is too large for microcontrollers).

o Can Microsoft, now supposedly a “devices and services” company, afford to be completely absent in this space?

  • Many industry observers consider the Internet of Things (IoT) to become one of the most important new trends in IT. The explosion of smart sensors and various types of gateways are only possible due to the inexpensive microcontrollers (and sensors etc., but microcontrollers are among the key enablers of the IoT).

o Without solution for microcontrollers, Microsoft will not have a credible presence in the IoT. Competing platforms will win in this space by default.

o For example, Oracle has started a new push to make Java the language of the IoT, with support from ARM and Freescale. This will allow Java developers to use the same language, library APIs and tools to develop everything from small devices to the cloud. Ironically, this is a major advantage of .NET today thanks to NETMF - (see the graphics at the top of this page for an illustration), but Microsoft would give up this advantage and would allow the competition to catch up and surpass Microsoft.

  • One bottleneck for the further development of the IoT is seen in a looming skill shortage, see here for an analysis. Developers who now get acquainted with e.g. a Java IoT platform are unlikely to switch back to a Microsoft offering, if Microsoft should decide to offer something new in a couple of years. Similar to app developers who are already acquainted with iOS or Android: they will not easily switch to Windows Phone.

o Microsoft runs the danger of missing the IoT revolution, like it nearly missed the mobile revolution.

  • No one knows exactly which business model will prevail for the IoT. Thus it is crucial to be able to experiment quickly and inexpensively, in a way that allows to later ramp up successful ideas to robust products.

o Here NETMF (and Gadgeteer) can play a useful role, by providing a painless path for experienced .NET developers into the IoT.

o Why not build on this basis, keep a presence in the microcontroller space, and learn from the community about which IoT ideas work and which ones don’t work, and which cloud services or other Microsoft products would help to achieve success?"

11 Likes

@ Cuno - I would give you more +1s but can’t …

but, there was the talks at the build I thought about an Azure SDK for NetMf, what came out of that, anybody any idea ??

Thanks ;D

Maybe you mean this https://twitter.com/markushorstmann/status/467035615419060224 ?

1 Like

@ Cuno - Maybe, maybe not, but is sure worth to keep up to … thanks for the link :smiley:

@ Cuno - You make some good points, but when discussing the expense of any given team, remember, there’s not just some big bucket of money in a storeroom in Redmond that folks can dip into when they need to hire someone. Headcount goes against the P&L for a given org, and it’s that org that has to justify the expense against no revenue.

As we saw recently with the cuts in the MS Research robotics team, even teams that aren’t expected to directly produce revenue can fall under the axe.

I agree with you that Microsoft needs to be in this space. The question is who is willing to incur the cost on an ongoing basis? If I were someone with a major stake in NETMF for my business, I’d probably be talking to folks like Clemens Vasters and looking for ways to make his team successful through showcase projects using NETMF and Azure Service Bus. NETMF needs a hero inside Microsoft. Don’t know if Clemens is the right guy, but I know that when you help someone else to be successful, they’ve got a good incentive to reciprocate. :slight_smile:

Then again, maybe the movement we’re seeing with the revamp of the website is just the beginning. I sure hope so.

@ Cuno, there’s that name again … small world :think:

[quote=“devhammer”]
The question is who is willing to incur the cost on an ongoing basis?[/quote]
Yes, indeed. Someone who knows that he will eventually have to pay the cost of a lost opportunity? Steve Ballmer didn’t know, regarding the mobile opportunity ???

[quote=“devhammer”]
If I were someone with a major stake in NETMF for my business, I’d probably be talking to folks like Clemens Vasters[/quote]
We actually offered to visit him, he’s not that far away from here. I don’t know, he may have hesitated because our spin-off company Yaler GmbH (http://www.yaler.net) is competing in the same space as Service Bus. Would be a pity though, as we probably could cooperate far more than compete.

I think his blog post here
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/clemensv/archive/2014/02/10/service-assisted-communication-for-connected-devices.aspx
is one of the more thought-provoking articles about IoT and security. Unfortunately it may be largely ignored or misunderstood.

Certainly the discussions about home automation and IoT at Bluetooth Europe in Amsterdam (The first Bluetooth Europe Conference, held in Amsterdam - Oberon's IoT blog) could have benefited from his input.

We had also tried to get closer ties to the Laredo project last year. Now I don’t even know whether this is the same as the Azure Intelligent Systems Service, we haven’t been admitted to the pilot program of the latter. Work on NETMF obviously didn’t count enough.

There is only so much effort we can put into trying to cooperate with a behemoth like Microsoft…

@ Cuno - If you can get Satya’s attention, you’re a better man than I…but he’s the guy with the big picture view. Hopefully that view includes NETMF. Only time will tell.

Azure and the IoT service work we’re doing are clearly important. However, they are not the whole story.

Makers and enthusiasts are a key and named part of our IoT strategy. Yes, this is new for Microsoft. Yes, it’s exciting :slight_smile:

So as much as I do want you all to incorporate our services, and encourage you to do so, that’s not the only thing we’re looking at, nor is it the only thing that would justify continuing in this space.

On a planning call today, we were actually talking about how to measure success and momentum with both NETMF and Windows on Devices. It’s an interesting challenge. I contend that you need to see successful projects, not just Visual Studio or NETMF SDK downloads. I even suggested “number of Kickstarter projects using our tech” as a possible interesting measurement. Others include blog posts, youtube videos with our tech, etc.

I’m interested in what you all would suggest. Consider for a moment that somewhere up a management chain at a very large multi-billion dollar company, some pieces of data need to fit on a chart in an excel spreadsheet with a number associated with it that make a little ball red, yellow, or green. What would you measure as a success metric for NETMF and WoD (knowing that we don’t get sales data from third parties, and that sales and downloads themselves don’t necessarily indicate success).

I’m not asking you to solve this for us – we have people working on this, but in the spirit of NETMF being more open than ever, I’m interested in opinions here.

Thanks :slight_smile:

Pete

PS. MS Open Tech’s site not listing hardware is just a timing thing. MS Open Tech was a huge part of getting NETMF going here, and restructuring how we work on it. They do have a post here:

I know I’ve tried to create lots of demo projects and YouTube videos etc to show how great Gadgeteer and ultimately .NetMF (even did one using showcasing Azure) are, but sometimes you start to feel a tad lonely in this endeavour and I’ve hit a few issues that are little beyond me to fix, I just wanted to know there is someone else in the game and that those issues will be addressed as they are pretty much show stoppers. I’m starting to see signs of life which is very hopeful.

I understand that Azure is a key component for Microsoft, but before that can happen some other issues need to be dealt with such as networking needs a bit of an overhaul before we can get wild with .NetMF/Azure showcases.

Oh, and Clemens is a great guy on the services side. Absolutely talk with him when you want to talk services.

I’m the devices guy (not the only one, for sure)

Pete

Almost nobody is in the ISS early work pre-pre-pre-pre-pre-preview stuff. It was not at a state that it would be particularly useful to you at the time, IMHO.

Pete

[quote=“Cuno”]
I think his blog post here
http://blogs.msdn.com/b/clemensv/archive/2014/02/10/service-assisted-communication-for-connected-devices.aspx
is one of the more thought-provoking articles about IoT and security. Unfortunately it may be largely ignored or misunderstood.
[/quote]Given the whole Bash disaster that is going on right now, I’m not sure its being ignored as the fire from past ignorance is in the news today. This works out well for me as I was asked to do an IoT presentation in December and security was one of my main topics. He is absolutely correct in that IoT isn’t just more of the same, but with littler computers. There is a entirely different set of forces in play here, for example I like to call one of them Physics, I mean just how much power can you suck out of a button battery to run traditional IP stacks or meaningful encryption etc. so IoT is very much a different beast with different rules at the device level. At the bigger device level or aggregators maybe we can think of those as little computers, but treating all of IoT like little desktop computers is a recipe for disaster. Now that said there are features that exist only on ‘desktop’ computers that we need to figure out for devices, such as possible infield updates or better control and health monitoring which aren’t really in place now so while lots of folks claim we are on the very cusp of an IoT explosion, we actually have lots of very difficult problems to solve before said explosion can happen.

@ Pete Brown - The blog post talks about

[quote]makers, enthusiasts and hobbyists[/quote].
But what about professionals? We use NETMF in industrial grade products. We’re just at the beginning in integrating it in our main product, but I’m very confident that this will be a great success.
The reason why we use NETMF controllers is that you don’t need to learn a lot of new stuff to program them, if you know VS and C# already.
Of course, programming an µC, is not the same as a computer running Windows. But knowing the tools and language helps a lot to speed up development.

2 Likes

Ah, that’s good to know. I certainly don’t want to waste resources on something [em]that[/em] immature. Several months ago one could fill out a form to get into the preview, and some marketing fluff was put on the Web. So I thought it would be in a [em]bit[/em] more advanced state than that :smiley:

Yes, of course professionals are included as well. I didn’t want to write an essay about all of the supported and interesting audiences :slight_smile:

Makers/enthusiasts are something that, as a corporation, we’ve not done a lot with in the past. Many individuals know how to engage with makers/education/etc. but we’re looking at it from a corporate standpoint. My statement is that this audience is officially important, and not at all on shaky ground here.

That all said, if we don’t see it, it’s hard to comment on it or draw attention to it. We run into similar challenges in the corporate app dev world. Desktop apps are hugely important. We know around how many are created on a regular basis. What we don’t necessarily know is what they do, or what they use, unless we ask individuals. I’d personally love to see more information out in public that calls out that the commercial solution was built using NETMF. I know some of these things can’t be shared, though.

Pete

[quote=“Pete Brown”]
I’m interested in what you all would suggest.[/quote]
I am now referring to the professional use of NETMF, which after what you’ve just said I am assuming is also a named and key part of the NETMF part of your IoT strategy:

You could count published reference cases on industrial uses of NETMF as KPIs. Reference cases like these:
http://www.mountaineer.org/app/download/7120290775/NETMF+Reference+2G+Drives+V20131023+final.pdf?t=1382521965

Another possible KPI would be to count the official Microsoft Partners who have completed such projects (and published at least one of the above reference cases within the last three years), have provided substantial contributions that were incorporated into the Porting Kit, or have industrial-grade hardware on sale.

We tried.

I agree, microsoft should not forget the professional users, but it’s nice to see that something is moving. :clap: