Cat5bird Seat

Left Hand, Right Hand

Vista rolls out, in some sense, without support coming from the Developer Division.

Allow me to quote two prominent Microsoft executives to get the ball rolling this month:

If you want to ride the wave we're creating with Windows Vista, the best way is to have your application ready by the time we ship!
-- Jim Allchin, Co-President, Platforms & Services

Ensuring that VS2005 works well on Windows Vista is a core goal of ours. Visual Studio 2005 SP1 will run on Vista but will likely have a few compatibility issues. We are working with the Vista team to understand those, to provide workarounds where possible and also work on providing you with a set of fixes beyond SP1.
-- S. Somasegar, Corporate Vice President, Developer Division

Whatever they're drinking over in the Developer Division these days, it does not appear to be Kool-Aid shipped in from the Platforms & Services folks. When Vista ships, Service Pack 1 for Visual Studio 2005 (the company's flagship development tool) will still be in beta. Some parts of the tool won't work on Vista. The official response? Run it in a Windows XP virtual machine under Virtual PC if you need to be sure of 100-percent functionality (because, you know, you simply must upgrade your workstation to Windows Vista as soon as you can).

In late September, the folks in the Developer Division started talking about the level of support that would be offered for current tools under Vista. Visual Basic 6.0 is supported. Visual Studio 2005 will be supported at some point, mostly -- after SP1 ships, with workarounds and fixes -- at some point in the future. Visual Studio .NET 2002 and 2003 will not be supported (so if you're actively maintaining .NET 1.0 or 1.1 code, as many organizations are, you'll want to keep at least a few non-Vista boxes hanging around for your developers to work with).

There's been some damage control going on, with Microsoft people pointing out that the vast majority of VS2005 functionality will work fine under Vista. But you know, it's hard to trust your business to a product that's not 100 percent working and supported. There's always the vague suspicion that your application will be the one that will hit that part that doesn't work and you'll be out of luck when you try to get support.

Regardless of the business decision you make for your own development effort (personally, I won't be upgrading to Vista any time soon), the wider question remains: How did Microsoft end up offering two such wildly divergent messages? On the one hand, we have the Vista guys pounding at us for years (literally) about how important it is to have our code Vista-ready and about how their plethora of resources makes moving even complex codebases to Vista simple. On the other hand, we have the Visual Studio guys apparently not taking the message seriously enough to bother finding out what the problems with their current version are until it's too late to fix them. Apparently this is a wave that they are not interested in riding.

To be fair, few applications are as complex as Visual Studio. It's huge, it does many things, it hauls around a legacy COM architecture, it supports all sorts of wild advanced debugging scenarios that depend on deep interaction with the operating system, and so on. But Microsoft hasn't been evangelizing developers to only write brand-new Vista applications -- we're supposed to be porting our existing work as well. What's sauce for the goose is, as they say, sauce for the gander.

In the end, one doesn't have to invoke any sort of crazy conspiracy theory: It most likely comes down to simple resource allocation. Given everything that they're trying to do right now, from .NET 3.0 to the "Orcas" version of Visual Studio and beyond, the Developer Division just didn't think Vista compatibility for Visual Studio 2005 at Vista's ship date was important enough to make happen. But, if they don't think that sort of thing is important for their application, why should I care for mine?

Are you ready for .NET 3.0? Or were you hoping they'd ship Avalon and Indigo? Let me know what you think at MikeG1@larkfarm.com.

About the Author

Mike Gunderloy, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, is a former MCP columnist and the author of numerous development books.

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