Demand for more and better technical information is driving vendors of development tools to overhaul their developer Web sites into well-organised, one-stop answer shops akin to portals.
To try to deliver on that promise, Microsoft is currently rolling out a new developer site (msdn.microsoft.com/defaultbeta.asp) as a public beta; Sybase beefed up its developer site (sdn.sybase.com/sdn/index.stm) in mid-March; and Inprise has been betting half its business on its newly formed Borland.com division (www.borland.com) since early February.
Most developers consider a good vendor Web site as the most valuable part of that vendor's developer community, according to a survey by Evans Marketing Services.
Of the 348 developers surveyed, 55 per cent ranked the Web site most important, 19.8 per cent most valued a dedicated Usenet group, and 17.2 per cent said they valued a priority phone support line. As it merges its Site Builder Network and the Microsoft Developer Network into one new site, Microsoft is improving its search engine and adding newsgroups and guest columnists.
But several software engineers and developers have complained they couldn't find critical information at the site.
For instance, one developer's recent search didn't turn up documentation of the registry changes he must execute to configure security settings on Microsoft's Internet Information Server running on Windows NT Server 4.0. as a result he is sceptical about the results of Microsoft's beta.
And while most developers sites cry out for improvement, Larry Perlstein, an analyst at GartnerGroup's Dataquest unit, said the timing of the site overhauls is coincidental. One thing is sure, however: "They all needed a facelift." Perlstein said.