Microsoft is coming out with cheap, slimmed down versions of its development tools for dabblers who don’t have the cash to pay for the full version of Visual Studio. This weekend when I was fooling around with .NET, I used vim and the C# compiler that comes with the .Net framework, and it worked fine for a smaller app, but I don’t think that approach would scale well. If you’re a Java programmer, you can be incredibly productive without paying for anything but hardware. The entire Eclipse, Tomcat, Apache, Linux, MySQL stack is free. Productivity enhancing frameworks like Hibernate and Struts (insert your favorite persistence and MVC framework here if you prefer) are free, as are plenty of other libraries that are widely adopted. The situation is the same for PHP and Perl developers if that’s your bag. I don’t think this is as big an issue for corporate developers, but if you’re a tinkerer, the ability to get all of this stuff for free is just amazingly valuable. Even outstanding tools like IntelliJ IDEA are relatively inexpensive. I guess Microsoft is recognizing that their prices for tools are a problem.