Developer Support Arrives, But Late
The belated support for Visual Studio 2005 on Windows Vista indicates that the coupling of Microsoft's developer tools and operating systems isn't as tight as it has been?or should be.
If I were given a nickel for every time I've heard someone pronounce that Microsoft has "jumped the shark," well, I'd have hamburger-basket-of-fries-and-margarita money for Islands, at a minimum.
(For those unfamiliar with the "jumped the shark" reference, the term refers to a singular event that marks when something great went bad. Specifically, it refers to an episode of Happy Days where Fonzie, ahem, jumped a shark on a pair of skis.)
The jumped the shark reasons come and go, but generally include things like the company's late reaction to the threat of the Internet, Java, and/or open source; the introduction of .NET; Windows Product Activation; and so on.
In most cases, these pronouncements come off as little more than wishful thinking.
The most recent example of Microsoft jumping the shark making the rounds concerns the belated support for Visual Studio in Windows Vista. To wit, on March 6th Microsoft released Visual Studio Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista, more than a full month after the widespread release of its latest consumer Windows OS.
This service pack addresses several known compatibility issues for developing applications on Windows Vista when using Visual Studio 2005. On the same day Microsoft released the service pack, it posted an interview with "Soma" Somasegar, vice president of the Microsoft Developer Division (read the full interview at http://tinyurl.com/yqoasv). Said Soma:
"With this update to Visual Studio, our goal was to ensure developers have the best possible experience on Windows Vista, and that the features developers are using in Visual Studio work as expected. We fixed a number of significant issues around debugging and profiling, and around creating ASP.NET applications for IIS on the developer machine."
Windows Vista was in development for approximately five years, so it's more than a little disappointing that it took more than a month for Microsoft to come out with the initial service pack that addresses basic compatibility issues with Visual Studio 2005. (Yes, there was a beta version available at the time of Windows Vista's release, but beta isn't shipping.) And this compatibility fix addresses only Visual Studio 2005. Visual Studio 2002 and Visual Studio 2003 are unsupported on Vista.
Microsoft has traditionally leveraged its development tools to push acceptance of its operating systems. In fact, much of the success of Windows as a platform has been attributed to the introduction of Visual Basic, which enabled developers of all experience levels to create a massive number of applications for the Windows platform. The tight coupling of Microsoft's development environments and its operating systems has paid enormous dividends for Microsoft and those who develop on its platforms.
I think it goes too far to say that Microsoft has jumped the shark in this case, but developer support does feel like an afterthought, rather than a tightly integrated piece of the overall Windows Vista plan. The issue goes deeper than belated compatibility support for Visual Studio 2005. For example, Windows Vista introduces Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), which marks a major change in how developers create GUIs for their users. Yet the toolsets to support these new features are highly immature or non-existent (see this month's Guest Opinion by Rockford Lhotka for more information on WPF). The new Workflow features of Windows Vista appear similarly immature; watch for more information on these issues in the coming months.
The next version of Visual Studio, code-named Orcas, will give Microsoft an opportunity to restore the tight integration of its developer tools and OS, but the tools in the current iteration of Orcas fall short in several significant ways. As ever, we'll keep you informed of Microsoft's progress and provide workarounds, where available.
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Patrick Meader is editor in chief of Visual Studio Magazine.