Who is Mort anyway? And why should he care about VS 2005?

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13 June 2005

Mort is the Microsoft “persona” often associated with VB, and for various reasons “Mort” has unfortunately become an insult.

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But in reality, Mort is the business developer. You know, like the 3 million or so VB6 developers that have been programming for anywhere from 5-20 years and have a pretty good clue about how software is built. Mort is not a newbie or a hobbyist. Mort is a professional[1] business developer. In fact, the Mort persona represents the vast majority of developers. There are around 3-5 VB developers for every C++/C# developer out there. And an increasing number of C# developers are “Morts” as well - you don't stop being a Mort just because you change programming languages after all.   The highly productive majority of developers who build business systems day in and day out. These business developers typically build systems for 1 to 1000 users. Systems that are of critical importance to their business. Systems that are linked to the very lifeblood of the companies for which these people work.   Mort is the heart and soul of the Microsoft platform. Mort is the reason Microsoft development is pervasive in virtually all small to mid-sized companies, and why it is lurking in the shadows everywhere you look even in the Fortune 100. These are the business developers that won't say no, that won't give up and who refuse to spend weeks or months on over-thinking J2EE or COM+ architectures when they can have their software up and saving money in a few days.   These are the people who never left the "smart client" and so isn’t "coming back to it" in a revolution. Long-time business developers are the people who saw the web for the terminal-based monstrosity it is and never left the productivity of Windows itself. These are the true Microsoft loyalists.   They aren't the uber-geeks. They aren't in it for the love of technology nearly as much as for the love of helping their end users and their companies. They are pragmatic and focused on just getting stuff done and running and saving money.   It isn’t like quality doesn’t count. Quality is critical, but also relative to the task at hand. In most cases, adequate software that’s deployed in a couple months is infinitely superior to exquisitely designed and tested software that’s deployed in a couple years.   A very large number of these “Mort” business developers are still using VB6 and have yet to move to .NET. Whether these business developers stay in VB or move to C# doesn't really matter to me a whole lot. Speaking as a geek I think that what’s important is that they move to .NET, because it is a far superior platform than Windows. But is this actually important to the business developers themselves?   The fact is that the majority of business developers aren't going to change the way they work due to a new language or even a new platform. If .NET can't give them the high levels of productivity of VB6 they won't move. If Microsoft can't convince mainstream business developers that they can switch to .NET quickly, easily and in order to gain serious and pragmatic benefit they'll never move. Nor should they. If .NET doesn’t make their job easier what would be the point?   Personally I am convinced that Visual Studio 2005 (with its attendant new VB and C# languages and related tools) is the tipping point. Not from a geek perspective (though there’s cool stuff there too), but from a pragmatic get-it-done perspective.   The new data access features in ADO.NET and in Windows Forms are truly the best stuff Microsoft has ever done in this area. The levels of productivity for building business applications in Windows Forms are unmatched by any technology I’ve seen.   The new and updated Windows Forms controls and the streamlined nature of Windows development brings back memories of VB6. Yes, Windows Forms is still a new forms engine when compared to VB6, but finally we can honestly make the claim that it is easier and more powerful than its VB6 predecessor. We can sincerely show that a business application can be written faster and with less code in VB 2005 than in VB6.   Things like the new splitter control, the flow layout, the toolstrip (the toolstrip is my new favorite toy btw), the new datagridview and other controls are the keys to serious productivity. Couple them with the easy way you create template projects, forms and classes and you almost immediately have a highly consistent and productive development environment to match or exceed VB6.   At Tech Ed last week Microsoft announced that VS 2005 and SQL Server 2005 will be released around the week of Nov 8, 2005. If you are one of the very large number of business developers who’ve been holding off on .NET, I understand. But I strongly suggest you look at VS 2005 and VB 2005, because I’m betting you are going to love what you see!     [1] As in sports, a professional is someone who makes their living by doing something. In this context, a professional business developer is someone who makes their living by building business software