see nerd) blog — bye bye flight simulator

Microsoft have got rid of their Flight Simulator developers. This is tantamount to announcing the end of the product. All that’s left is the last few months of marketing and selling. They can’t develop it any further, they’ve no longer got the staff.

Now, I don’t play Flight Simulator. My only use of it was in the early days of PCs, when it was a good tool to use to make sure a PC worked properly. But I’m still concerned by this decision.

You see, there is quite an industry of little companies that have been built up around Flight Simulator. Those companies, no doubt carefully cultivated by Microsoft over the decades, have been abandoned. There are quite a culture of developers around other Microsoft products too. Might these products be abandoned if Microsoft can’t find a way to keep that product profitable?

The obvious self-interest is that I’m a Windows developer, although I certainly don’t see Microsoft abandoning Windows. But Windows has got components that many people specialise in. If some of those are dropped, then a lot of people will be in difficulty.

I’ve tried to avoid being trapped in such places; I try and specialise in products or skills that are independently specified. I’ve kept myself out of a dependency on one manufacturer’s products; I’m also a unix developer. My memories of the UCSD Pascal debacle have kept me away from programming tools that tie you in. That tool’s sudden commercial death destroyed a number of software products, and damaged the careers of those products’ developers. This is why I’ve avoided Java and .NET, for example.

But you can’t help the risk of being trapped. You get work where you can, and you have to accept your client’s strategy. They might have a dependency. And now is a bad time.

I believe this is the first time that Microsoft have abandoned a product that has dependent industries around it. I don’t like the precedent.