Software developers ignore Vista

Mostrespondents to a Computerworld survey said they prefer environmentssuch as .NET to the Windows Presentation Foundation of the Vistaoperating system.

Eric Lai of Computerworld wrote this article today

Windows developers are confirming the results of a survey released yesterday that found fewer than 1 in 12 programmers currently writing applications targeting Windows Vista .

“None of our customers are saying, ‘G******it, we need those WPFcontrols now!’” said Julian Bucknall, CTO for Windows programming toolsmaker Developer Express Inc. , referring to one of Vista’s mosthighly-touted features, its new graphical subsystem, WindowsPresentation Foundation . Rather, “we find most are still sticking with ASP.Net and Windows Forms applications.”

True to Microsoft ’s form, ASP.Netand Windows Forms and most of Windows XP ’s other legacy technologiesstill work fine in Vista. (The converse is also true: many Vistafeatures can be installed as add-ons to XP.)

But as in every upgrade cycle, Microsoft runs the risk thatdevelopers may bypass the latest technologies — in Vista’s case, WPF,the XPS printing format that Microsoft is touting as a rival to Adobe’s Portable Document Format (PDF); Windows Sidebar ‘gadgets,’ andothers — in favor of those further down the road, such as thoseexpected in Vista’s successor, Windows ‘7′.

“Microsoft tends to dump ten new technologies on us, but only 2 or 3really stick,” said Michael Krasowski, vice-president of PDSA Inc., aMicrosoft-focused 20-developer firm in Tustin Calif., citing theWindows DNA Architecture as an example.
Microsoft Corp. undoubtedly wanted to avoid its current predicament. Ithas been publicly talking up features in Vista since 2003 — half adecade.

But such “overmarketing,” as Krasowski calls it, can rebound.Experienced developers have become jaded towards the third-party appsMicrosoft trots out as exemplars of Redmond’s latest technology —“demoware,” he calls them — that sparkle with flashy animation andvideo.

“You can’t write an enterprise app like a demo. It’d be all soft andweak under the hood,” he said. “We’d never put all that stuff inbecause it couldn’t support 100 concurrent users.”

Some say it’s premature to declare Vista a flop with developers. Forone thing, despite the 140 million copies Microsoft claims to haveshipped, the market hasn’t reached a tipping point yet.
“I can???t see targeting something only to Vista when you have XP andWindows 2003 out there in huge numbers,” said Dave Noderer, a MicrosoftMVP who runs the Florida .Net User Group as well as his own softwaredevelopment firm, Computer Ways Inc. in Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Others point out the symbiotic relationship between most Windowsdevelopers and the large enterprises that hire and pay them.Enterprises are proving even slower than the rest of the market atmoving off XP, say analysts such as Forrester Research Inc.
“Large enterprise don’t transition overnight to the newest platforms,”said Shannon Braun , a Microsoft MVP and Minneapolis-area-basedprogramming consultant. “To me the adoption pace [of Vista bydevelopers] seems pretty normal.”
“Vista is too bleeding-edge — not for us, but for our clients,”Krasowski said. PDSA’s clients include large, blue-chip customers suchas Kaiser Permanente and Boeing Inc. “They’re all leery of Vista.”

And why shouldn’t they be? According to data released this spring bymigration software vendor AppDNA Ltd., about a fifth of enterpriseapplications running on XP break when moved straight to Vista, mostlydue to pre-XP-era code still lingering in the app. That increases tonearly half for apps migrated from 32-bit XP straight to 64-bit Vista.
Another reason is that Microsoft, in an attempt to catch up to the Mac,emphasized consumer-y aesthetic features with Vista, with WPF, Aero andthe DirectX 10 3-D graphics rendering engine all aimed at making Vistaor its apps more pleasing to the eye.
More attractive apps are more user-friendly apps, says Microsoft, andthat translates into increased user productivity. But that messageremains a hard sell to enterprises, who demand their apps stay “leanand mean,” said Krasowski, not get “confused and cluttered.”

Others say learning how to take advantage of Vista’s new visualfeatures remains daunting. Improving data presentation is “a good thingto do, but there is a lot of hacking through the undergrowth first,”Bucknall said. “I don’t think a lot of developers know how to get tothat stage.”

Noderer is optimistic. While XP-era technologies such as WindowsForms “will be around for many years to come,” he said, Vista-era onessuch as WPF “will slowly rise as the way to do Windows applications.”

But others think that the rise in popularity of server-deliveredbusiness apps — coupled with Microsoft’s recent moves to make itsInternet Explorer 8 browser behave more like other Web browsers — couldmake Vista’s client-side graphics-enhancing features irrelevant.
“98% of the apps we write are for the Web,” Krasowski said. “They’remore flexible and easier to maintain. Many of our clients are migratingfrom apps written in VB6 or .Net.”

Heather Havenstein contributed to this story.

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