The Microsoft Platform Ahead by David Platt; thoughts about Python and Zope

Steve Holden steve at
Mon Nov 22 14:41:46 CET 2004

Carlos Ribeiro wrote:

> On Sun, 21 Nov 2004 19:16:48 GMT, John Benson
> <jsbenson at> wrote:
>>Hi, I've been reading the above-titled book and it looks like some major
>>Python and Zope features have been cherry-picked for pushing down into .NET,
>>like application memory management (Python interpreter), and prefabricated
>>website user management (Zope).
> <irony>
> I would be concerned if Microsoft was pushing for patents on things
> previously implemented by Python or Zope.
> </irony>
>>Will the open-source web service frameworks suffer the same fate as the
>>Netscape browser?
> Microsoft has show with the IE 6 fiasco that they have no long-term
> commitment. As soon as they think that they have obliterated
> competition they stop developing. And their customers are learning it
> too. For many companies older versions, such as NT4 and Win98 are
> still quite usable... but as MS discontinues support, it *forces* them
> to upgrade. Worse: there are applications written for older frameworks
> that simply will not be supported in the long term. It's why so many
> people are concerned about XForms, Avalon and stuff -- they have
> bought MS technology previously, and they will have to buy it again,
> with all the upgrade cost, just to keep working. Not a good way to run
> a business.
Microsoft's financial results prove that it's actually an excellent way 
to do business, as long as all you are interested in is financial 
results. When you start to consider the suboptimal economic nature of 
such a methodology, however, the capitalists start hurling around words 
like "socialism" which they use in a perjorative sense without real 
understanding ;-).

The point is that Microsoft appear to feel threatened by open source 
because to work in that arena would remove the vital element of control. 
They aren't interested in the greatest good for the greatest number, 
they are interested in the greatest good for Microsoft stockholders.
>>The most likely scenario I see is that Python will remain important as a
>>standalone language and one of the Microsoft CLR (Common Language Runtime)
>>language alternatives (like VB.NET and C#) but that great frameworks (like
>>Zope and Twisted) will be crowded out as Microsoft appropriates and
>>repackages their functionality. Comments?
> Perhaps I'm a little paranoid, but I am afraid that the CLR version of
> Python may lead to a split of sorts in the long term. Jython is always
> a little behind, but as far as I know, it still follows C Python
> steps. The CLR is a *big* library, and it's backed by Microsoft, which
> makes it quite attractive for a number of developers. I'm afraid that
> its direct use may lead to a distinct 'dialect' of sorts (due to the
> use of the CLR) than C Python with the standard Python library. The
> language is the same, but the programs would hardly be portable (I
> don't place my bets on Mono either). But again, I may be just paranoid
> :-)
I think you probably are being a little paranoid (though even the 
paranoid can have enemies). As long as the CLR remains an API rather 
than getting built into the language Python will be just fine. Take Mark 
Hammond's win32all extensions as an example of what might happen.

I've written Windows services, and used Windows-specific functionality, 
to deliver what customers asked me for. The solutions are still Python, 
despite the fact that they aren't portable to any other platforms than 

The day *I'll* start complaining is the day Python-from-Microsoft starts 
to sprout new keywords and syntax features that don't exist in other 
implementations. Personally I have enough faith in Jim Hugunin's 
integrity to be pretty sure he'd resist such trends, though perhaps not 
enough faith in Microsoft as a whole to be sure such changes wouldn't be 
railroaded through if there were some perceived corporate advantage.

Frankly, though, it will be a long time before Python is anything but a 
minority platform for Microsoft users, given the huge number of VB and 
C# programmers, not to mention the Java camp.

In the long term the only way to change Microsoft's behavior is to 
engage with them and have them perceive that their current technological 
isolationism is against the long-term interests of their shareholders. 
This will not be an easy dialog.

As far as using CLR functionality from Python goes, I'd hope that mono 
will allow us to do the same (sort of) things in other environments.

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