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Interfacing with the 10-10-10 Rule

Suzy Welch, the better half of business legend Jack Welch, has taken to the airways this week to promote her new book, 10-10-10. The premise here is better decision-making by asking yourself how a choice will affect you in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.

For developers, technology choices are more often than not influenced by executive types tasked with improving or maintaining the bottom line. Their only criteria, it seems, is: How can we conserve cash and make do with what we have now? In the current climate, this mode of holding steady for the next 10 months is probably prudent. But the bigger picture may require some tough decisions about user experience and software delivery in the next few years.

Last week, RDN Express asked how line-of-business developers pick the right technology and tooling for their Windows client and RIA applications. One longtime developer e-mailed to express his frustration with WinForms and bewilderment at how WPF, which he has also used, could possibly make him more productive:

"I just don't understand how I could program better and faster with less code using WPF! No, I don't program pictures on spinning cubes or other toy applications. I program measure and control applications used in the lab, mostly using old-fashioned RS232 instruments..."

Microsoft contends that WPF isn't replacing WinForms; it's all about choice.

Rockford Lhotka, Magenic's principal technology evangelist who's leading a session entitled "Sharing Code between Your Microsoft .NET Framework Applications and Microsoft Silverlight" at Tech-Ed next month, holds a different view.

"It is very clear that the future of Windows UI development is WPF," Lhotka said. "That is where Microsoft is putting all of their energy -- and they are putting even more energy into Silverlight."

The tooling needs to catch up, asserted Lhotka, who's hoping that Visual Studio 2010 will enable more developers to unlock the potential of WPF and Silverlight technologies.

Eric from Scranton expressed similar disappointment with the current tooling:

"The largest problem I've had with WPF, and in particular Silverlight, has been the lack of a true IDE. Years ago, I decided to pick up Flash, and in one hour I was making goofy Flash animations. They weren't anything relevant to really publish to the Web, but I was able to visually transform elements on the screen and add music with very little effort.

"XAML seems to have a steep learning curve, and every time I have to switch between Studio '08 and Blend 2, I'm reminded of how lucky we have been in the past to have Studio, and how rich of an environment it is...but Microsoft fell short so far with Blend, and certainly knows better."

The longtime developer of measure and control apps just wants a better UI framework:

"Call it WPF 5 if you want, I don't care about the name. It just should be a neater, better and more powerful framework than WinForms 2."

On his wish list?

"I would like to see an improved CLR (->DLR?) so that the delegate-event mess can be cleaned up (= disappear). Then dynamic languages with 'first-class functions' are easily implemented in the .NET. Then a WinForms replacement could be written with better inheritance mechanism and first class functions and thus easier to understand and modify."

Things may get better for .NET developers as WPF and Silverlight advance. WPF will be a superset of Silverlight, according to Microsoft. "If they accomplish that, it will mean that if I write XAML for Silverlight, my UI code will just automatically work in WPF as well," Lhotka said. "You are really looking at a spectrum where if I build my UI for Silverlight, it would run on a phone (Silverlight for Mobile), or it would run on a browser or it would run in a limited environment on Windows, and that might cover a lot of cases."

But Lhotka said there are other apps where the out-of-the-browser support for Silverlight (the limited amount of the disk space on client, for example) is not sufficient and WPF may be the better choice.

Are your technology choices driven by what's happening now, the next 10 months, or the next few years? Express your views on Windows client and RIA apps. What technologies are you investing in for the future and why? Comment below or contact me at [email protected].

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 04/16/2009 at 1:15 PM

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