Posts Tagged ‘Software Development’

Software development choices

August 2, 2009

Anyone in the computer field is constantly called upon to make a dizzying array of choices. For a developer, a computer is hardly a set it and forget it device!

All users must make choices like do I buy a Mac or a PC? If I get a PC, do I get a netbook with Windows XP, a laptop with Windows Vista or wait for Windows 7? No sooner than I get the computer it seems like I am faced with the question: “Is it time to upgrade?”

For a developer things can be even more frenetic. By way of example, hardly a week goes by without some sort of security patch or service pack for one of the myriad of tools. Silverlight, Visual Studio, Azure etc, the list seems endless! Worse still, tools for developers can easily cost thousands of dollars.

On a longer term and more strategic level one is forced to commit to platforms and development environments which take years to master and which unfortunately may not be around that long. Perhaps you learned the PASCAL language in college? Well there really aren’t many jobs for PASCAL developers, especially compared to web developers or iPhone developers. Did the iPhone even exist when you were in college?

My first job after college in 1974 was as a COBOL programmer on IBM mainframes, technology which I concentrated on until the 1980s when I switched my focus to PCs. In the fall of 1987 I became a big fan of Microsoft Windows and have been doing development on Microsoft platforms with Microsoft tools ever since. In case you were wondering, I am a big Microsoft fan!

Two websites I am currently developing use vastly different toolsets. One,, uses Microsoft Model View Controller (MVC) and utilizes open source; specifically KiGG. The other,, uses Microsoft’s Silverlight built with Expression Design 3’s SketchFlow tool.

The first, MVC, has a rather steep learning curve. Once one becomes proficient, one can do amazing things. One could characterize MVC as a tool for professionals. SketchFlow on the other hand can be can be understood in less than an hour and once could then build an extremely good looking website in far less than a day. That’s right, someone who is familiar with computers could learn SketchFlow and produce a quite acceptable website in less than a day! Watch this video to see what I mean.

This reminds me of Windows development in the early 1990s. If one wanted to produce a Windows application prior to 1991 one programmed in C with the Windows SDK. In fact learning the Windows SDK took longer than learning C! Then in 1991 Microsoft Introduced Visual Basic and the barrier to entry as a Windows programmer was reduced by orders of magnitude. Commercial products like Microsoft Office continued to be written in C while the vast majority of corporate developers and hobbyists adopted VB. The number of Windows applications, particularly specialty products and  in-house applications skyrocketed.

The lesson here is that Companies like Microsoft that make it easy for people to develop software will be far more successful in the long run than those that don’t. How easy does Microsoft make it? If you are a student, check out DreamSpark. A starving entrepreneur looking to produce his (or her) first software product, check out BizSpark. Someone else wanting a free version of Visual Basic .NET, then download VB.NET for free.

In my next post I will discuss why this may be the game changing strategy that could permit Microsoft to dominate the mobile phone market.