April 1, 2005 • Vol.27 Issue 13
Page(s) 23 in print issue
Peter Blackburn and I spent the week of March 14 at a Microsoft-sponsored author/publisher conference in Redmond learning more about how Microsoft plans to implement Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005. We heard Jon Roskill and several other Microsoft product managers hint about when they expect Whidbey and Yukon to ship. I was with Microsoft long enough to know that until we get a bit closer to the date, any estimate on release to manufacturers has to be taken with a grain of salt.
I expect Microsoft to try to get most of Visual Studio and SQL Server 2005 out the door before the end of the year. But if the company waits too long, it'll miss the last opportunity to market it in 2005 at the Developer Connections conference in November. (See www.betav.com for details.) No one really pays attention to developer tools in December, so if it gets that late, Microsoft will have to wait for the late winter or spring shows to kick the products off. That might give the development team a chance to fill in some of the missing pieces before the package products are released to the public.
Team System—For Enterprise Developers
Microsoft also spent quite a bit of time touting its new Team System but relatively little time talking about Visual Studio for "ordinary" developers. I expect that this new VSTS SKU will have a positive impact on larger "enterprise" corporate development shops but little impact on the bulk of Visual Studio developers. Team System is a replacement (as I see it) for Source Safe and the mechanisms used to architect, design, develop, and test software (especially complex OO software) in teams. I'm willing to let this mature in the development marketplace before passing judgment on it.
SQL Server Express Edition
Microsoft made it abundantly clear that its new SQL Server Express edition is a key element to its overall SQL Server strategy. Many authors were surprised that this new version of SQL Server 2005 is free. Microsoft also announced a new SQL Server SKU: the Work-group Edition. It's the next step up from the Express Edition at roughly $740. Note that the Standard edition is now $2,800—up from $800. I think this branding of the SKUs is something like trying to get a "small" drink at Wendy's. "No, we don't have small—just medium, large, extra large, and humongous."
While I can't reveal the details, I can say that I'm impressed with the aggressive approach Microsoft is taking with SQL Server Express Edition to solve many of the complex issues. You see, it's trying to replace JET as the small office database of choice. We've heard that some companies have 40,000 JET databases spread (like a virus) over the company's systems. SQL Express is designed to provide better security and control over this data. Of course, Microsoft also hopes that the number of Microsoft Excel "databases" will also move to SQL Express for many of the same reasons.
In order for this to happen, Microsoft is going to have to make Access work (best) with SQL Server Express. No, it can't take JET out of Microsoft Access because it's woven too tightly into the fabric of the product, but it can get Access to use MSDE or SQL Express (in the next version) to be the default DBMS engine (instead of JET). This move would go a long way to alleviating the stress that JET databases impose on IT managers. One question remains: Is SQL Server Express Edition overkill for Access/JET applications?
Is Visual Basic 6.0 Support Really Ending?
We were also reminded about the "end" of Visual Basic 6.0 support through Brad McCabe's blog (blogs.msdn.com/brad_mccabe/archive/2005/03/10/393704.aspx). It seems that Visual Basic 6.0 is still going to be supported, but support will not be free. This "extended" support, which lasts until March 2008, will mean that developers that call in for help will be charged $99 or $245, depending on how quickly they want a solution. After March 2008, there is no support at all. I guess the people in Bangalore will just hang up if you ask a Visual Basic 6.0 question.
I and several thousand others, including 203 MVPs, signed a petition to encourage Microsoft to continue support of Visual Basic 6.0 (classicvb.org/petition). Although I don't expect Microsoft to integrate Visual Basic 6.0 into the Visual Studio IDE, I hope the noise the petition is making will get Microsoft to reconsider its support decision. A number of companies (some very big) simply can't afford to convert off of their Visual Basic 6.0 applications before support is dropped completely in 2008, so the 2008 deadline seems all too close. I also discuss this on my blog at betav.com/blog/billva.
We heard Eric Rudder has promised the Visual Basic 6.0 runtime will be tested in Longhorn. How the new OS will deal with these issues will be an interesting topic for further discussion.