The rush to new technologies often obscures the evolution of software products that enable developers to solve problems more efficiently. But tools are cool.
For example, Ajax is hot right now and developers are scouring bookstores and the Internet to find working code samples. But uptake of new technology will be slim, progress will be slow and mistakes will be plentiful, until well-tested products emerge that "embed" Ajax best practices
Commercial and shareware tools automate laborious and complex tasks, and -- just like code -- they are constantly in flux. While many developers champion "build your own" and open software, these developers and others go ahead and purchase software from new and established vendors.
Tools in 2006 saw several new developments. Innovative refactoring software came to market. Class browsers gained attention. UI development tools began to support new front-end frameworks. Virtual machines became more common on the developer's workbench. These and other product categories will have a new opportunity to flourish in the wake of the year's big blockbuster release – that is, Microsoft's Visual Studio 2005.
Give me downloads - give me blogs
But, as we move deeper into "the Oughts" (that decade after 'the Nineties' and before the 'Teens'), big companies like Microsoft and smaller firms alike face a similar issue. That is: smoldering notions that software should be inexpensive or cheap, that upgrades and licenses should not be dictated to users, and that the buyer should be able to alter source code.
Recent reports from the software marketplace show many firms determinedly pursuing a subscription model for software products. Meanwhile, no less a wag than Ray Ozzie has privately suggested that advertising revenue may ultimately come to support software development tool purchases. Increasingly, blogs and free Internet downloads are the mechanisms for publicizing and distributing new software tools.
As we put together the selection of notable releases for the year, we asked some of our site experts to form a virtual panel, in order to comment on aspects of the software at hand. What caught their attention among this year's cavalcade of software products? Innovation was a big factor. It took many forms.
Products came in for special scrutiny, and some even garnered praise. ARTech's DeKlarit was noted for embedding best architectural and coding practices, and providing useful follow-up automatic code generation. Telerik's r.a.d. controls gained the highest praise developers can proffer for "controls that make you realize you're wasting your time when you try to roll your own." Infragistics' dedication to rolling updates was highlighted, and VMWare Workstation gained appreciation for its state of the art means of allowing developers to juggle several deployment and development platforms at once.
For more SVB commentary on highlights and trends of products in 2005, go to Selected Product Highlights 2005 - Expert Commentary.
There is no question that Microsoft rules the roost in .NET development. But we may be entering a new era.
The new Visual Studio Team Server ventures into unit testing and modeling, and thus, Microsoft has tacitly admitted that a wide swath of tools is needed in software development in enterprises. In effect, Microsoft admitted as well that it can't do it all. It has opened up opportunities for third-parties to provide add-on tools. Now that VSTS is out in the marketplace – well, maybe in Q1/'06 when the important VSTS Foundation Server component is scheduled to formally ship -- these non-Microsoft tools should emerge with more fever and frequency. One thing is for sure: big interest in UIs, VMs, VB6-to-VB.NET refactoring -- and more – will continue in 2006.