Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Microsoft has stopped making it easy

My friend in Europe followed up on yesterday's letter, talking about how VB.NET shares none of the features that made VB so popular (easy, quick, gets the job done) and how Microsoft may be making an error in abandoning this segment. Sean Martin (IBM, Advanced Tech Group) also wonders what's going to enter that low end niche.
Yes, the transition to .NET may be traumatic for many VB shops. This is one of the issues we've been discussing here.

If non-OO to OO is a bigger transition than non-microsoft to microsoft, then going from VB to Java is not necessarilly harder than going from VB to VB.NET or to C#. This is the idea at least. However, it may be that familiar Microsoft tools and brand names will significantly sugarcoat the the transition, even if the fundamental change is real and substantial.

To be honest, it seems like an error for microsoft to push everyone into .NET in a way that seems simply to abandon all this territory in the low-end niche. As I said, I don't know what the concentration curves look like, but I've heard the same stat as everyone else that there are more VB developers in the world than anything else. Presumably that's not because V & B are magic letters. What I'm saying is, maybe VB developers are the most common type of developer for the same reason bad novelists are the most common kind of novelist -- that is, because it's easier that way.

If Msoft imagines they can bully the world into using technologies which are harder, and more expensive in terms of talent and training, in order to produce exactly the same lightweight standalone enterprise apps, then they must be making a mistake. If they imagine that because of web services, internet, basic shifts in technology, etc., there is no longer going to be a place for very low-end development, that's probably also wrong. Cheap-and-easy-development is surely as important a feature as robustness, security, etc., to many organizations.

I feel pretty sure about this. I've observed the growing shock on the part of the CEO as he slowly realizes that careful OO development is simply slower than VB, which *already* felt slow to him because he doesn't know enough about development. If Microsoft is planning to force a wholesale upgrade of their low-end developers then they're throwing away one of their comparative advantages, which is their dev tools. (The dev tools are a kind of a bridge between their strength in apps and their weakness in the enterprise apps the tools create.) And anyway, this upgrade might be simply impossible.

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