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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Some Thoughts on Joel Spolsky's Microsoft Losing the API War 

Dare Obasanjo

Secondly, he [Joel] argues that Microsoft is trying to force too many paradigm shifts on developers in too short a time.  First of all, developers have to make the leap from native code (Win32/COM/ASP/ADO) to managed code (ASP.NET/ADO.NET) but now Microsoft has already telegraphed that another paradigm shift is coming in the shape of Longhorn and WinFX. Even if you've made the leap to using the .NET Framework, Microsoft has already stated that technologies in the next release of the .Net Framework (Winforms, ASP.NET Web Services) are already outclassed by technologies in the pipeline (Avalon, Indigo). However to get these later benefits one not only needs to upgrade the development platform but the operating system as well. This second point bothers me a lot and I actually shot a mail to some MSFT VPs about 2 weeks ago raising a similar point with regards to certain upcoming technologies. I expected to get ignored but actually got a reasonable response from Soma with pointers on folks to have followup discussions with. So the folks above are aware of the concerns in this space. Duh!

The only problem I have with Joel's argument in this regard is that I think he connects the dots incorrectly. He agrees that Windows programming was getting too complex and years of cruft  eventually begins to become difficult to manage.  He also thinks the .NET Framework makes developers more productive. So it seems introducing the .NET Framework was the smart thing for Microsoft to do. However he argues that not many people are using it (actually that not many desktop developers are using it) . There are two reasons for this which I know first hand as a developer of a desktop application that runs in the .NET Framework (RSS Bandit)

  • The .NET Framework isn't ubiqitous on Windows platforms
  • The .NET Framework does not expose enough Windows functionality to build a full fledged Windows application with only managed code.

Both of these issues are why Microsoft is working on WinFX. Again, the elepahant in the living room issue is that it seems that Microsoft's current plans are fix these issues for developing on Longhorn not all supported Windows platforms.


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