In the latest FoxShow, I talked about how I had received an email from someone saying “too bad since MS is trying to get rid of FoxPro” and I reacted with a bit of a rant. I asked the client why they thought that (along with various examples of why and the response was curious. It suggested that the survey made it seem like they were fishing for reasons not to keep it.
Didn’t make much sense to me – the VFP community has been full of petitions from day one so the idea that MS themselves were doing a survey to see how popular it really was seems to be at odds but I’m sure someone can make an argument about it.
Anyways, while searching for some other notes about getting rid of VFP, I came across this great series of posts on the O’Reilly Network. An older discussion starting from an article “What I hate about your programming language” in 2003 but continued with a final post in 2004, all pretty much positive but essentially making the point that Fox developers have understood for years: since the FoxPro distribution is free, the only way to make money is from the developers. With SQL Server, money is made from the user licenses so it makes sense to give away single user versions to developers since they’ll have to make their clients pay for it in the end.
But also on the point of MS and development languages, I think it speaks volumes about the way Microsoft is handling itself at least from a development perspective (yes the EULA is written by a bunch of lawyers trying to ensure they can get the full $$ out of everything).
For years, VB was the darling child of Microsoft. Every salesperson, every MSE would always promote VB and then, by need, Visual C, as the best tool (at least they stopped promoting Access as the best DB when MSDE came along). But Microsoft is always improving their products and way back in 1993, I recall a conversation (it could have been Robert Green but I won’t stake my life on it) that said they were moving to an area where language was irrelevant and that the same designer would be used in each product. The notion there being that each product would be kept intact but the ease in which developers could switch between languages would be very visible. The first stab at this was the first Visual Studio with the Visual Interdev UI, VB UI, VC UI all looking the same (VFP 6 was like the odd man out in terms of the UI tools).
That goal has been modified over the years to what is now Visual Studio and the CLR – use the same tools but use your own language.
Now, Visual FoxPro doesn’t fit into that mold (for a variety of reasons) but by the same token, there are many VB developers who don’t want to fit into that mold either. Now, one key argument for FoxPro not fitting is clear: doing data access the way Visual Studio does it can be a step BACK for FoxPro developers where data and coding have always lived pretty much together. Visual Basic on the other hand, never “got” data – it received data objects, which is very similar to Visual Studio.
VB developers needs to realize that while their arguments about VB 6 may sound good to them – they were the ones who were all excited about moving to a common interface way back when they thought THEIR product would be the yardstick. Well, the yardstick has changed.
Apparently, some VB backers got upset that MS was continuing to support FoxPro but not VB 6. The most telling comment:
But Vaughn also noted that “Microsoft needs to take a hard look at the disruption they’ve caused in the industry as they constantly churn the technology.
“They can’t expect to reinvent the wheel every five years or so and expect the world to adopt the new technology just because it’s new and improved,” Vaughn said.
(read on after you’ve stopped laughing at the rational of this comment – you are TALKING about an industry that is dealing with Moore’s law after all)
VB developers should realize – FoxPro and VB are two distinct products – while VB is primarily a language; FoxPro is a language and a database and so while they may see some similarities, the two big differences, I see, are “accessing data” and “extensibility”.
VB has often been about getting Microsoft or a third party library to build something INTO the product.
FoxPro developers have typically done it themselves, often finding their solutions built INTO the product but always asking the FoxPro team not to “do it for them” but rather to make it possible for the community to do it themselves. And in VFP 9, as with previous versions, the Microsoft Fox Team, however small compared to the legions of people on the VS team, continue to deliver on a promise of making the product so darn open that if you don’t like what it does, you can always change it.
And from I’ve seen from some of the work done in Visual Studio 2005, that is a design concept that is slowly making its way into the larger product as well.