Visual Basic users don't buy support cut

Microsoft has ended support for Visual Basic 6 with customers labelling it an end-of-life technology.

Although free support officially ceased on March 31, 2005, customers said they are certainly not willing to pay for extended support which is available for a fee until 2008.

Kempsey (NSW) Shire Council application developer Marshall Hodgekiss said the council will have to move away from VB to .Net anyway as it is seen as an "end-of-life" technology.

"It's an interesting situation as Microsoft has brought out a product [.Net] to replace VB, but we haven't been using the support anyway so it won't affect us," Hodgekiss said, adding that support hasn't been used in around three years and he won't be paying for any extension.

Kempsey Shire uses VB to develop Civicview, an integrated local council application that administers everything from payroll to land management with mapping.

"It seems to be a counter-productive action and I don't know what the logic is - unless Microsoft is looking to push people off VB 6," he said. "There have been incidents where bugs in VB have been found and Microsoft has taken years to fix them anyway. Going back as far as version 3 you would work around bugs and not wait for Microsoft."

The council intends to port the fat client Civicview to a browser-based Web application and is evaluating both Java and .Net, and although there are migration tools from VB to .Net, Hodgekiss still described it as a "huge amount of work".

"It's another motivation to migrate off but the amount of work required will determine the speed at which that happens," he said.

Sydney .Net Users' Group member Jatin Valabjee said VB users are generally going to .Net but converting apps over is not easy and a "hell of a lot of work".

"There are some issues with moving VB to Java so it's a more natural migration to .Net because it retains a lot of VB syntax," Valabjee said.

"Microsoft should encourage VB to .Net migrations as Visual Studio .Net 2005 beta is a lot easier to use."

Valabjee said large enterprises with VB solutions are more likely to purchase extended support because of the costs involved with migrating immediately.

"I wouldn't be surprised if big apps took two to three years," he said. "It's important Microsoft keeps support because organizations have budget constraints."

Following the decision, software development applications vendor Real Software announced that more than 10,000 developers have downloaded a free version of Realbasic in search of an alternative to VB.

Microsoft Australia's developer tools product manager, Finula Crowe, said: "We do feel those developers' pain, but we don't think we are doing customers any favours by diverting resources away from developing the current and next generation tools."

Crowe said the company needs to apply its "finite resources" towards continuing to develop on the platform that is being most broadly used by its customer base

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Rodney Gedda

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