The adoption rate for .NET technologies, released more than 2 years ago, continues to lag behind Microsoft's expectations. The set of .NET-based development tools that Microsoft launched in February 2002 included an IDE, the ASP.NET Web-development platform, and the new C# and Visual Basic .NET (VB.NET) languages. Microsoft designed Visual Studio .NET to counter Java as the premier Web-development environment, and considering the .NET products' strengths in developing Web applications, it's no surprise that most adopters have been Web developers. However, the biggest base of Microsoft developers isn't made up of Web developers; it consists of the 8 million Visual Basic (VB) 6.0 developers who haven't migrated to Visual Studio .NET in the numbers Microsoft hoped for.
Whether ardent .NET supporters want to face it or not, VB 6.0 has some advantages over VB.NET. VB 6.0 is simpler than VB.NET, so the hurdles to getting started and being productive with the language are low. VB 6.0's runtime requirements are featherweight compared to the more than 20MB .NET Framework, not to mention that the .NET IDE requires some real horsepower. Trying to run the IDE on anything less than an 800MHz system with 512MB of RAM isn't a great experience. In addition, the VB 6.0 environment is mature. VB 6.0 programs are reasonably robust, and a strong market still exists for third-party controls.
VB 6.0 may claim a handful of advantages over VB.NET, but VB.NET's benefits are too plentiful to list in a short column. VB-.NET provides full-blown object-oriented capabilities and an extensive set of .NET classes. In short, despite having a familiar syntax, VB.NET is a new language. And the extensive nature of the changes between VB 6.0 and VB.NET is one of the biggest hurdles slowing the adoption of VB.NET by VB 6.0 developers. Although still a favorite of many grassroots developers, VB 6.0 by all accounts is a dead language. While Microsoft will continue to support VB 6.0's close cousins, VBScript and Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), it has no plans to enhance VB 6.0. Not surprisingly, when Microsoft officials mention VB, you can be sure they aren't talking about VB 6.0. Microsoft developers, the first adopters of VB.NET, have been using the language for almost 4 years now. Except for support issues, VB 6.0 is off their radar.
Although VB 6.0 may be dead, Microsoft is resurrecting many VB 6.0 developers' favorite features in the version of VB.NET that's part of the upcoming Visual Studio 2005 release, code-named Whidbey. Without a doubt, the biggest enhancement in Visual Studio 2005 for the VB developer is the restoration of the edit-and-continue feature. Edit-and-continue lets you make source-code changes while you're debugging a program and have those changes included immediately in the executing program. The new VB.NET IDE replaces the old dotted forms and sports an auto-alignment feature that visually connects all form objects, making it easier to create visually appealing forms. And Visual Studio 2005 provides enhanced data binding for WinForms, bringing it up to par with the data binding that VB 6.0 offers. VB 6.0 developers will also appreciate VB.NET's support for the new My .NET namespace. Like the old Me objects in VB 6.0, the new My namespace lets you easily access resources on the current system. VB 6.0 is dead, but in its third go-round, VB.NET has become a more-than-suitable replacement.