March 16, 2005 12:24 PM PST
Microsoft walks VB tightrope
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developers report working with VB, while 34 percent work with VB.Net--a percentage that has remained constant since the introduction of VB.Net at the end of 2002, according to Joe McKendrick, a research consultant with Evans Data.
The petition protesting the shift, which was signed by more than 2,000 people, including 222 MVPs, has sparked a debate in the Microsoft development tool community.
Proponents of Classic VB argue that Microsoft is essentially stranding its older VB customers.
"Any organization with an investment in Visual Basic code--consultants, ISVs, IT departments, businesses, schools, governments--are forced to freeze development of their existing VB code base, or reinvest virtually all the time, effort, intellectual property and expense to rewrite their applications from scratch," wrote developer and author Rich Levin in a recent blog entry.
Others developers argue that those VB6 customers should make the move to newer Microsoft technologies.
Juval Lowy, founder and chief architect of consulting firm iDesign, said that current VB6 or older applications do not need to be "ported" to work with Visual Basic.Net. Instead, developers can leave older VB code essentially intact and find ways to share data between older VB applications and newer ones.
"The name of the game is not portability--it's interoperability," he said. "Porting applications is just a waste of engineering effort."
Carrot and stick
Responding to specific requests in the Classic VB petition, Somasegar said that Microsoft does not intend to release a new version of the "migration wizard" for moving VB6 code to Visual Basic.Net.
Also, the company will not make the changes to VB6 to allow it to run as another programming language in Visual Studio. That approach would be "technically implausible," Somasegar said.
In addition, Somasegar gave details of some of the company's efforts to keep existing customers of older versions of VB6 in the Microsoft fold. With Visual Studio 2005, which is code-named Whidbey, developers will be able to use prewritten components, called controls, that worked with VB6, he said.
"To be fair, we did lose a little bit of the VB experience when made transition from VB6 to VB.Net," Somasegar said. "Whidbey Visual Basic is going to provide the best RAD (rapid application development) experience that they have ever seen."
The VB6 Upgrade Center will provide information on how VB6 developers can continue to use their existing applications by using VB and VB.Net together, said Jay Roxe, product manager for Visual Basic.
Roxe noted that customers can purchase support on VB6 for three more years or use credits from an existing support contract for VB6-related incidents. Microsoft already added two years to its initial deadline for cutting off mainstream support, extending it to seven years.
Microsoft has little choice but to follow through on the decisions it made regarding the move to .Net several years ago, DeMichillie said.
The "carrot" Microsoft can use to entice VB6 developers to migrate are new features, such as the Avalon presentation system and Indigo communications being built into the Windows operating system, DeMichillie said. The "stick" is cutting off mainstream support, he said.
"There's not a huge difference between mainstream versus extended support," DeMichillie said. "But companies don't like it: It's a psychological milestone which says that the product is getting long in the tooth."
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