Friday, 27 July 2007

"Do you have a .net version?"

A reasonably common question we get asked these days in tender documents or over the phone is "is your product written in .net?" or similarly "do you have a .net version of your software?". At this point I bite my tongue, take a breath and try to find out exactly why they've asked such a ridiculous question.

Do they understand what they're asking for? Usually not. A .net "version"? As if we have a normal version AND a special .net version?

At what point did .net become a selling point for software? At what point did .net leave the workshops and magazines and conferences and become something that customers actually believed was a feature? At what point did software resellers start putting on their website "written using .net, Microsoft's latest development platform"?

.net isn't a new platform, it's a "framework" for developers. The end user wouldn't be able to tell if software was written in .net or Win32 because there is no difference to the end-user. There's nothing new in it, nothing fancy or magical, it's just a well-designed foundation for developers to work with. The same one that we as Delphi developers have been using for years. Microsoft brought together years of different technologies and brought them under one roof. Designed by the very man who designed Delphi's OO framework. Nothing new: just the old stuff, revamped and rebadged (oh yeah, with garbage collection added). It's for us, not them.

Another misconception from users/customers/managers is that it's something to do with the internet. I can see why, because the name .net is simply one of the most misleading names in software history. The "net" in .net is a misnomer. It isn't about putting your software into a browser, it's just a rewrite of the Windows development framework. ASP.Net allows you to develop websites, but so did ASP.

A post last year on the Delphi Developer's Group newsgroups asked "Has this whole .net thing been a marketing strategy by MS to boost sales of Visual Studio? Did MS decide Borland, Eclipse and others were encroaching rather too much on the developer tools market and in a brilliant coup de grace has shattered the competition?".

Someone replied, "The thing that annoys me is that .NET is now seen as the latest must-have".

I replied saying how customers are asking if we have a ".net" version and this was well-received as generally the sort of thing customers are asking about.

I'm encouraged, by looking at competitor websites, that almost none of them are developing using .net (or at least their system requirements don't state the .net framework). The more we fight it, the longer they'll have to leave Win32 alone. After all, MS aren't planning to bring the majority of their flagship products across either.
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