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PowerBuilder Worldwide Survey

Much of what we learned from last year’s comments still holds true

The 2010 survey is currently in process and the results of the 2009 survey are in. Several months ago we looked at the comments attached to the 2008 results, and I'd like to take a look at the comments on the 2009 results to see how things have changed.

One big difference is that this year there was only one comment about how hard it was to find PowerBuilder developers. In last year's survey there were quite a few comments concerning that. Unfortunately, that may just mean that because of the economic downturn nobody was looking for any. In addition, there also appeared to be quite a few more comments this year about shops that were moving to other development tools (primarily .NET and Java). The comments were split about whether existing PowerBuilder applications would either be migrated to the new tools or simply left in place as "legacy" systems. In most of those cases, the commenters indicated that they were not happy about the move, but had no choice. On the other hand, there was one comment however that "[t]he massive .NET n-tier system that was supposed to replace our good-ol' PB client/server software is a steaming failure. For client/server database systems, nothing comes close to PowerBuilder..."

Two major issues were cited for the movement to other development tools. One was the perception of PowerBuilder as a legacy product. The other (perhaps contributing to the first) was the inability to deploy PowerBuilder applications to the web or problems with the web-enabling solutions (e.g., WebForms) provided to date. One issue cited with the WebForms approach was compatibility issues with non-Microsoft browsers. Another indicated that they would prefer to see the application rendered as standard web pages rather than as a web version of the client/server application. Yet another expressed concern about its performance.

Perhaps also contributing to the perception of the product as legacy, perhaps one of the most typical comments was about the lack of marketing. People in the business who have been around for a while don't hear anything about the product, while new developers coming out of school have never heard of it to begin with.

There were also quite a few comments about the lack of stability of the IDE (particularly the debugger) and the lack of debugging capability for the DataWindow proper (i.e., the inability to see the data that the DataWindow is working with inside the debugger). A number of commenters indicated that they would like to see more of the capabilities of the Visual Studio IDE supported (Intellisense), although one commenter indicated that PB was better than VS because the IDE was simpler.

New this year was a number of comments about the cost of PowerBuilder (perhaps also reflecting the recent economic turndown). Perhaps contributing to that was a change in the license policy for upgrades. In particular, with the release of 11.5, the policy was changed so that an upgrade license only upgraded from the previous major release. Prior to the release of 11.5, the policy allowed for an upgrade from up to two prior major releases.

The one thing that hasn't changed since last year is that people love the product. One of the consistent themes in most of the comments (aside from complaints about the lack of marketing) was how great the tool is:

  • "Best GUI I have every used. With the integration with .NET it will be even better."
  • "I'm no expert but I don't believe there's any better client/server development tool available."
  • "Still the best RAD development tool around for intensive data-oriented applications!"
  • "PowerBuilder is still the best for client/server application development."
  • "Still the best tool."
  • "We still love PowerBuilder."
  • "Best development tool I have ever used!"
  • "PowerBuilder is the fastest and easiest tool in developing client/server applications."
  • "In my opinion PowerBuilder is an unbeatable RAD tool for its innovative functionality and potential creativity."
  • "Still the best RAD / Agile .NET development tool on the market for business applications!"

Much of what we learned from last year's comments still holds true:

  • PowerBuilder has a very loyal customer base.
  • Those customers want some rather specific new functionality. This year it seems to be focused on a browser-independent web deployment option.
  • Those customers would also like to see Sybase doing more to regain mindshare.

More Stories By Bruce Armstrong

Bruce Armstrong is a development lead with Integrated Data Services (www.get-integrated.com). A charter member of TeamSybase, he has been using PowerBuilder since version 1.0.B. He was a contributing author to SYS-CON's PowerBuilder 4.0 Secrets of the Masters and the editor of SAMs' PowerBuilder 9: Advanced Client/Server Development.

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