Opinion: Goals should shape tool choice, not the other way around.
As several thousand developers head for Orlando to attend this
Rational Software Development Conference
, Im trying to get used to
the idea of an
IBM Web site
using a turn of phrase like "cranking the volume up to
11, so you can hear whats shaking." Its hard to believe that this is
the company that used to promise
us things like
"a conceptual model that describes software
structure in a generic way and provides a coherent organization of function." Im
sure that the
companys new groove is an improvement.
On the other hand, IBM is probably entitled to express itself to
developers in whatever way it prefers: Despite the high profile of
Microsoft among mass-market software developers, IBM claims
to have led the tools market
in revenue for five straight years,
with Microsoft in second place at half of IBMs tool revenues.
Of course, Microsoft may not judge its success in tools by how much
money those tools bring in, but rather by their success in attracting
talent to the Microsoft platform. I once asked Microsoft research
Jim Gray if Microsofts tools were expected to
generate the same kind of margins as other Microsoft products, or if
the tools group was merely expected to cover its overhead while serving
strategic developer engagement goals. "Thats a good question," he
replied, but thats as far as his answer went.
I vented in a recent
on the subject of whether taxpayer-funded software
development should make a point of using only standards-based tools for
nonproprietary platforms: This led to some dialogue among our blogs
readers on whether I was (i) taking a cheap shot at a government agency
that had made a rational choice of a productive tool set or (ii)
accurately identifying the political nature of the process by which
tools are chosen. Ill admit that Im of two minds myself.
Ideologically, I want to see school kids with Macs or Linux boxes being
just as able to use a NASA-developed learning application as students
in Windows-equipped classrooms. Practically, and as I
acknowledged on the 20th anniversary of Windows
late last year,
Ive seen technical tasks dramatically aided by the availability of
useful and free applications that might never have been written without
the leverage of inexpensive tools for a ubiquitous desktop client.
To argue against myself, though, Ive also taken a good hard look at
world of end-user computing might have evolved
if Windows had been
less effectively marketed, and if broadly licensed standards from many
vendors or open standards created by the community had instead become
the definers of how we develop and deliver. I believe its possible,
and smart, to choose development tools and practices that reflect the
common subset of technology thats available to almost every user: a
"subset" that is today an enormous superset of what we once thought was
pretty darn good.
Tell me how you make these choices at firstname.lastname@example.org
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