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I had a colleague ask me yesterday: “Microsoft probably made Designer free for general HTML editing purposes, not just as a utility for SharePoint…what do you think?”
I actually don’t think that Microsoft released SharePoint Designer for free for general purposes, but to expand what people are doing with SharePoint. I think that most organizations do far less than is possible with SharePoint as a platform, and this is one way to push the demand out into the organization more. If power users (and I believe that Designer is a power user tool) start to implement cool workflows, better pages, slick branding, etc., then IT will be pushed into providing better enhancements and widgets on the platform over time.
This can only be good for the organization as well as Microsoft, since it will boost adoption and sell more seats for Microsoft tools, such as Visual Studio. Making Designer free also allows Microsoft to begin rationalizing the positioning of the Expressions Suite better. If you don’t know, Expressions was essentially a second fork of the Frontpage / Designer codebase, positioned for Web Designers. My bet is that we will see some SharePoint awareness show up in the next versions of Expressions as well.
I’m still seeing a lot of buzz around the free Designer announcement, most of it slight panic, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts. I will repeatedly encourage viewing this as an excellent opportunity!