Where's the VB? This is the question a lot of people have been asking in recent years upon attending .NET developer conferences where Visual Basic code samples seemed few and far between. Everyone knew it was natural for the new kid on the block -- C#, that is -- to get the greater share of attention when learning the new .NET Framework, but several years into the .NET revolution, many wondered if VB wasn't getting short shrift.
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Microsoft has heard this complaint. There is a bit more of a tendency to run VB samples to explain .NET on its educational sites these days. And a somewhat more balanced view of .NET – one that included VB – was on display in technical sessions last week at VSLive 2006 in San Francisco.
Individuals from Microsoft with whom we spoke at VSLive were very clear on one thing: They know the Visual Basic community is the single largest group within the Microsoft world. .NET's ultimate success requires that they bring the VB6 army over to .NET.
Meanwhile, the question remains: Will Visual Basic come out of the .NET experience as a stronger language? We hope so. You can find a whole lot of good examples of VB.NET coding if you look. But it is too early to tell. Let us know what you think.
Microsoft is always boiling with new initiatives. But within the tools group, there is an understanding that, to grow its business, Microsoft needs a broad developer army. "The VB community is a critical community -- the largest we have," reminds Soma Somasegar, corporate vice president for the company's Developer Division. He points to key enhancements in VB2005 supporting the VB community's traditional drive toward productivity. "A lot of the features -- My classes, code snippets -- all those thing are done to make VB developers more productive," he said at VSLive 2006 in San Francisco.
Jay Roxe, senior product manager, Developer Marketing, emphasizes these points as well. "VB remains our largest community. People at Microsoft are now very aware of its [importance]," he said.
Clearly, many VB developers have become C# developers in recent years. Many of these developers will go back to using VB, and back again to C# (or SQL, etc.) as the specific job requires.
In fact, the true ethos of the true "VB developer" may not be marked by the use of language at all. It may be more a point of view, said Rockford "Rocky" Lhotka, principal technology evangelist for Magenic Technologies, and a Microsoft MVP. C# and VB, the two key .NET languages, he says, are more about historical constituencies than differentiated language identities.
"What defines the VB developers is they are focused on solving a business problem," said Lhotka. This is in contrast to a C# community that is a bit more interested in what can be described as code that is somewhat elegant.