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Decoding Microsoft's Unexplained Events

"We may be through with the past, but the past is not through with us."

I'm not sure where this quote came from originally, but it was the theme of the excellent but lengthy film in 1999 by Paul Thomas Anderson (of Boogie Nights fame) called Magnolia. The movie starts by re-telling three unexplained events (urban legends) in the 1930's and then interweaves several stories, among them the suffering of whiz kids that excel on game shows, the broken family of a morally corrupt game show host, and a sleazy "Seduce & Destroy" motivational speaker played by Tom Cruise, who attempts to make peace with his estranged, dying father. It sounds grim but if you've got three hours to kill, it's entertaining, thought provoking and well worth it.

Most developers can relate to the movie's theme quite well: Whether it's untangling spaghetti code left by former company employees, the headaches of supporting multiplatform Windows environments--XP, Vista and soon Win7--or simply keeping up, as Microsoft suddenly changes course, again. The theme song from Magnolia, "Save Me" by Aimee Mann, unfortunately rings true in many dev environments.

The past is clearly not through with Microsoft. We see this everywhere and developers have to deal with it. When it comes to native APIs versus .NET, the company is in unison publicly about its commitment to managed code but the reality is quite different.

In response to a recent RDN Express, ".NET and Windows 7: It's a Wrap!," Kevin Daly of New Zealand commented:

"This is a bugbear of mine. I attended PDC 2003 where we were given a very clear message that Microsoft expected developers to go with .NET over native code for everything above the level of device drivers and so on….This was an excellent idea, but sadly it was abandoned. Vista shipped with more native libraries, and Windows 7 (which I love by the way) with a truckload...the .NET wrappers are an afterthought. I won't even mention Windows Mobile (where there would have been a real opportunity to break with an unsatisfactory past). I'm not saying "Use .NET for everything" or "Don't support native code", but the truth is that all of the documentation for every current version of Windows makes it clear that the assumption is that by default people are programming in C/C++, and all new features are implemented with that in mind."

He goes on to note:

"I think the primacy of native interfaces is a symptom of Real Programmerism: the OS teams are dominated by people who think "Real Programmers Use C++". What really bothers me is that .NET seems to have been shuffled into the same mental pigeonhole that VB occupied in the pre-.NET era: little more than a scripting tool for corporate developers working on in-house projects."

If you've got your hands on Windows 7, we want to hear from you. How is your company going to handle multiplatform Windows support and what is the likely role of .NET in your Windows 7 development? Express your thoughts below or drop me a line at [email protected]

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 08/20/2009

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