Three Cheers for VB Programmers

You have heard it from Keep an Open Eye and theOpenSourcery.com many times. VB.NET is too close to C# and departs so drastically from the simplicity of coding that is VB6+COM that it a)unnecessarily obsoletes and abandons an important development niche and b)leaves a lot of Microsoft developers in the lurch with a very uncomfortable decision as to where to go:
1)stick with VB6 with fast dwindling support and outright disappeared upgrades from Redmond;
2) convert to C#.NET (might as well go for the real deal instead of the limited Web development role of VB.NET) ;
3)convert to Delphi or RealBasic 5.5 which still support some of the COM+VB design model and/or spirtit;
4)convert to Java that increasingly has some of the best development IDE, MDA,and emerging technologies while offering true cross platform insurance in case Linux wins bigtime.
None of these are palatable options so VB6 programmers are protesting rather defiantly. This is important because Microsoft can leave huge gaps in the development set of robust development options and just impose a forced march to the “Redmond there”. This type of action antagonizes the most valuable of Microsoft commodities – Steve Ballmers “Developers, Developers, Developers”. And they are protesting. And not just over 2500 developers but also 100 and now 225 of Microsofts own MVP-Most Valued Professional developers.

Can you imagine 2500 Oracle or IBM developers protesting the retiring of Oracle 8i or IBM /Lotus Notes 5.x ?

Now there are inherent problems with trying to blithely stick with VB6 as it stands without true “try/catch/finally” and exception handling routines plus some of the security risks of the COM and ActiveX models; but there have been proposals to develop solutions to these problems. And I fully expect that Microsoft will argue that a)its not abndoning its VB6 users and b) its upcoming Software Factories based in Visual Studio 2005 will cover the VB6+COM niche plus c)availability of VB6 runtime in windows XP and Longhorn – all of these will more than meet its developers needs. But as Java and RealBasic begin to look more like the VB of old just more reliable, performant and secure – Microsoft risks disaffecting one of its most important constituents – its developer community. I said it back then – the conversion utilties and training offered by Redmond were not only woefully inadequate; but also missed the mark – Visual Basic was othogonal to C++ and C#, it offered a different and novel paradigm to development that VB.NET simply abandoned. Now as support for Visual Basic terminates on March 31st, 2005 (really it is clinically dead barring a major miracle – Microsoft spawns a VB6 development team as a separate incorporation able to compete in the market place as it so chooses – there might be enough stock options due to swing this deal) – the protest unfolds. Stay tuned but expect it to die out with a slightly muffled snort.

(c)JBSurveyer 2005