Whither VFP? Umm…still right here…

Had an interestingly brief conversation with an MTI (http://www.mtihorizon.com) customer yesterday about Visual FoxPro. They hadn’t loaded in the new version of Horizon yet (which is now under VFP 8) and were still running VFP 6 or 7. “Is VFP still around? Didn’t MS stop supporting it?”
Response: Of course it is. MS has it on its “what we support chart” until 2010 or 2012. They are hard at work on a new version. The product continues to grow and evolve. Yes, it’s an older product. Not much products make it past 5 or 6 versions. That says a lot for FoxPro and its team.
Question: Why did QUALCOMM switch over to SQL Server?
Well, their actual application was still done in FoxPro, for one. (they now offer a web-based version, which obviously doesn’t use VFP but it isn’t quite as smooth as it could be). But they had grown from having a handful of customers accessing data and wanted to provide a larger centralized database. Enter SQL Server.
Sure it’s easier to find SQL Server DBAs these days – they’re falling off the trees. And VFP’s own database strategy has been hurt by all those times when power surges corrupt memo fields, etc. You can’t always change bad impressions people get. So is SQL Server the only answer? Of course not, in fact, at one of my other clients, we came across a situation where a typical SQL DELETE completely ruined their database (thank goodness for backups, not DBAs in that case). Put a VFP View in to access the same data and bang! same SQL DELETE – didn’t wipe out their data.
Herein, I think, lies VFP’s biggest challenge. And it always has been. The perception that it is simply a database while its strengths lie in doing so many other things, such as accessing data, building apps, etc. Jim Duffy, I think, does a great job of illustrating this in conferences. He stands up and bashes VFP as a database while promoting SQL Server and MSDE left right and center. But he STILL works with VFP as a tool.
How do you switch perception? WIth a product that’s almost 9, it’s tough, maybe even impossible. But that doesn’t stop the people who can make it fly from doing so.