Developers speak out

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2005-03-09 Print this article Print

"Microsoft changed so much about Visual Basic in the move to .NET, with blatant disregard for backwards-compatibility, that VB programmers were faced with a huge porting job," said Joel Spolsky, founder and CEO of Fog Creek Software Inc., NY., and architect of Excel VBA while at Microsoft in the early 90s. "Many used the opportunity to port to the Web instead, and VB went from being the most popular programming language in the world to a somewhat irrelevant backwater while corporate developers in droves switched to Java and PHP.
"If Microsoft doesnt show some respect for the assets of its customers, who collectively have trillions of lines of code in classic VB, theyre going to lose even more developer mindshare for their crown jewel, the Windows rich client platform."
Added Spolsky: "Why this matters is that once a corporation has all its key applications running on the Web, theres no reason to use Windows desktops: Linux and OS X both have very nice Web browsers. "And this is how Microsoft will lose their desktop monopoly: because some bright bulb at Microsoft thought Boolean operations should really short-circuit, no matter what millions of BASIC developers had been doing since the 1960s." Read more here about a survey of developers that showed existing Visual Basic developers are moving to Microsofts upgraded Visual Basic .Net as well as to Java and other language alternatives. Richard Tallent, a software developer and project scientist at ERM Southwest Inc., Beaumont, Texas, holds a somewhat different perspective. "VB.Net did not break VB6 apps any more than C# broke Java or C++ code or Delphi broke Pascal. VB.Net was rightly designed as a whole new language species with all of the power of the other .NET languages; it was not intended to simply hack the existing VB6 language to access the CLR [Common Language Runtime]. "Microsoft has made a mistake of marketing VB.Net by over-selling their ability to automatically upgrade code to the new platform, but the language itself is a beautiful reinterpretation of BASIC (a language that has been around for over 40 years)." Stephen Bullen, director at Office Automation Ltd., London, said: "As a signatory to the petition, I believe Microsoft should do exactly as we suggest. Adding unmanaged VB6 and VBA into the Visual Studio IDE would demonstrate their commitment to their entire developer community, provide a lifeline for all their customers VB6 assets and map out a clear path for the future of VBA and Office development. "Furthermore, it would put all the existing VB6 and VBA developers inside an IDE that also supports .Net." Next Page: The Coca-Cola example.

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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