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Redmond | Column: FoxPro Not an Endangered Species

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's a direct link to the Mary Jo Foley column on FoxPro.
Send her an email with your thoughts.

There's not a lot of new news in the article - what's more interesting is that a journalist is covering it with the attitude of "maybe Microsoft sees that not everything is a DotNet world". Funny, because I think most FoxPro developers see Microsoft's attitude as being the opposite, despite the ongoing efforts but kudos to M-J for the article and the possible follow-ups it may generate.

Let's make no bones about Sedna though: it's about making FoxPro play nicer in the DotNet and Vista sandbox. You can easily tell a bunch of VB developers to recompile their COM component in VS and now it's a DotNet piece. You can't say that to FoxPro developers because there's no upgrade path so for those developers who believe that "COM is the answer" (a mantra by Microsoft prior to DotNet) and are now stuck in DLL version hell.

I think with the Sedna initiative, they are trying to show an openness and possible support for future development. A few years ago, expecting MS to open the Office file formats would have been considered sacrilege - now it's happening. As she notes in the article, the success of Ajax is forcing MS to re-evaluate "smart-client or nothing" approach (I'm currently taking a course on Smart client so I'll report back on that in a separate post).

Does Microsoft have bigger things in mind for FoxPro? I think Ken's words on the Fox show were not "no" but "not at this time" and as we've seen, things have a way of changing. Want to enforce change? Get involved in the SednaX projects (Craig et al - are you guys simply doing it all or going to provide templates for how you want it done?)

Now then, as to the comment "less than sexy database tool"? What is "sexy" about a database tool? Is it the interface design tools? Is it the applications that you can build with it? After seeing a demo on DABO, I'm beginning to think that the reason FoxPro is considered "less than sexy" is because developers treat most of these applications as "data entry" applications. You're not building data entry applications - you're building BUSINESS applications.

Excel made number-crunching sexy - it didn't mean spreadsheets sexy though. It's what you can do with it. Look at Basecamp - project management can be boring - but it made it exciting by inviting everyone to see it. Microsoft would do well to make MS Project a more community based tool (Project Central just didn't do it right) just like BaseCamp.

The FoxTeam has shown with stuff like the Task Pane and Project Environment that you can make a cool looking interface with a typical application. That's where developers should be jumping to. As long as we show a boring "data entry" application when someone says "what can you do with FoxPro?" - then it will always be considered less than sexy.

Make it exciting - make your users excited - make the managers excited - make everyone excited about your product. That's not Microsoft's job - as the developer, that's mine and yours.

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