Trimming the Fat
By Jonathan Goodyear
Ask anybody at Microsoft when the next version of one of their products is going to ship and you ll most likely get the typical response, We ll ship it when it s ready. Although that methodology works well for matching a time frame to a desired feature set, Microsoft realizes that sooner or later they actually have to ship software. That means slashing functionality to meet an established release date.
Microsoft recently re-branded its next generation of Visual Studio (codenamed Whidbey) to Visual Studio 2005, thereby starting a countdown. The clock is ticking. As expected, on August 17th, the ASP.NET team went public with their opening salvo of cuts. I agree with some of the cuts; others I m not so crazy about. I ll cover some of the highlights here.
I think the decision to not ship mobile device adapters for the standard ASP.NET Web controls was a no-brainer. Microsoft had planned to deprecate the ASP.NET Mobile Controls with the release of ASP.NET 2.0 in favor of the new universal controls. I was a skeptic of this architecture from the very beginning (see my February 2004 column, ASP.NET 2.0: What Matters, What Doesn t ). Although I think it would be convenient to only have to learn a single set of controls, I just don t see how the same page could accurately and effectively render in both a browser and a mobile phone or PDA. For those of you who still believe, Microsoft is leaving in the control adapter architecture. Perhaps some ambitious third-party vendor will pick up the ball and run with it. For now, developers can continue to use the ASP.NET Mobile Controls.
I didn t much care for the idea of site counters, so I m not upset that they got the axe. Most serious Web sites have implemented a solution like WebTrends or Statistics Server. However, I am a bit upset that the DynamicImage control and the Image Generation Service have been postponed. They were going to make it much easier to grab images from a database or produce dynamic images using GDI and display them on ASP.NET pages. There are workarounds for this, though. Microsoft has also included some sample code for an HttpHandler to handle dynamic image streaming (see http://www.asp.net/Forums/ShowPost.aspx?tabindex=1&PostID=667498).
The DataSetDataSource was superfluous given the existence of the XmlDataSource and ObjectDataSource objects, so that was an ideal item to discard from the ASP.NET 2.0 feature set. Although it would have been nice to have a good-sized set of ASP.NET Themes and Skins out of the box (similar to what comes with FrontPage and PowerPoint), I can see why Microsoft didn t want to waste any additional resources on this. I m sure several third-party vendors and independent Web site designers will be quick to produce myriad free and fee-based Themes and Skins, even during the beta time frame. Microsoft will facilitate this with an online theme gallery closer to RTM.
My biggest beef with the cuts to the ASP.NET 2.0 feature set is in relation to the Access Data Providers (or lack thereof) for application services such as membership and roles. The Provider framework is still in place, enabling a third-party vendor to add support, but it won t be available out of the box. Microsoft has chosen to push the development community into using SQL Server Express Edition (the next generation of the MSDE database). There is no arguing that Express Edition is far superior to Access in terms of performance and scalability, but I think the development community reacts much better when these choices are made available and we are allowed to make a gradual transition.
Eliminating cold turkey direct support for a database platform as widespread as Access (as far as application services is concerned) is not a good move. Worse, I don t think the decision was time-frame oriented. This was a marketing move all the way. Besides, there are many small Web sites out there that don t need any more performance or scalability and are in a comfort zone with Access, so why force it on them? If they need that kind of scalability, they are most likely going to go with a Web hosting plan that includes support for the full-blown SQL Server 2005.
The bottom line is that I am definitely in favor of cutting out some functionality to ensure that we get ASP.NET 2.0 sooner rather than later. Even though I have some complaints, sometimes tough decisions must be made. Microsoft knows better than any company that you can t please everybody all the time. The good part is that although they are cutting some functionality, they are being careful to leave hooks in to allow you and me to jump in and finish it up if we so desire. That will go a long way toward easing any bitterness felt by the developer community.
Jonathan Goodyear is president of ASPSoft (http://www.aspsoft.com), an Internet consulting firm based in Orlando, FL. He s a Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) and author of Debugging ASP.NET (New Riders). Jonathan also is a contributing editor for asp.netPRO. E-mail him at mailto:[email protected] or through his angryCoder eZine at http://www.angryCoder.com.