Skip to main content

Turning on the Lightswitch

Microsoft announced a brand new tool for business users yesterday called "Lightswitch", which (according to the announcement) makes it easier to build business applications for the desktop or the cloud.

Beth Massi sounds super excited by it, describing it as a tool that makes it easier to build data-centric applications, something that FoxPro developers know a little about.

Mary Jo Foley discussed Lightswitch as a tool similar to FoxPro:
" The idea, my sources say, is to bring the Fox/Access style of programming to .Net".

I don't buy that or maybe more to the point, I wouldn't put FoxPro and Access in the same boat to begin with.

This sounds more like an "Access" version of InfoPath which lets you "build advanced forms for line of business applications". If you walk through the screen shots shown on Jason Zander's intro page, it looks more like an application Setup Wizard or a "template-driven" application builder.

I welcome all tools to make building applications easy for organizations - it may dilute what many call "programming" - but if it solves an immediate business need, great.

However, remember all those efforts IT and centralized development shops have made to centralize development efforts, ensuring standards, etc?

Unless those standards were Silverlight, WCF and Entity framework, you've just thrown another tool that IT will hate into the mix.

From the intro page
"LightSwitch applications themselves are robust and are built on top of .NET technologies including Entities and WCF, the same technologies you already choose from when you write your apps today. Because the apps are built on top of .NET with VS you will be able to open your LightSwitch applications in the full version of Visual Studio and do advanced extensions."

Those key .Net technologies are VB or C#. I haven't seen what the final application and source looks like but let's face it - Lightswitch is a template-driven application builder for Visual Studio.

Some key points that make Lightswitch sound attractive:
- any database (including SQL, Sharepoint and Azure)
- can build desktop, WCF or browser-based applications
- extensible templates

Hank Fay jumped in with his analysis almost immediately, calling it a Bait & Switch, calling it an insult for domain-expert programmers:
"I have consulted with, and worked for, non-professional programmers for 12 years now, and if anything, the programs they create are more complex, in terms of data needs and UI needs, than what professional developers create. Oh, for sure, professional programmers can write complex algorithms, or wonderful feats of asynchronization communication over barriers of distance, protocol, and so forth. But when it comes to the business-end of the horse, one has to know the domain to understand the complexity, and that’s where the domain experts shine."

As someone who knows how important a good consultant is to moving an application along the right path, but I have also seen consultants or "experts" completely destroy a business opportunity, by either taking too long or not understanding the right concepts.

My big concern here is that Microsoft has added once again to the number of tools a business can use to extend or build applications with. You need to track something, do you use:
- Visual Studio (WinForms)
- Visual Studio (ASP.Net)
- SharePoint
- Dynamics
- Access
- Infopath
- LightSwitch
- Visual Studio (Office Extensions)
- Web Matrix
- WPF/Silverlight

I know that LightSwitch is an extension from Visual Studio but promoting it as a separate product can make this tricky to decide.

Yes, each one has certain things that it does well - but remember when Microsoft's own teams had a rough time deciding between tools when it was just VS, Visual FoxPro and Access? Imagine what the discussion will sound like now.

As many developers now focus on development patterns such as MVC (MVP, MVVM, etc) to build best-of-breed applications, Lightswitch removes that process. As I noted above, until we see the actual code created, it's hard to judge how successful it will be.

I'm a big proponent for the right tool for the right job - but there isn't a lot of guidance as to where Lightswitch fits. That's going to be the big challenge.


Hank Fay said…
Hi Andrew,

when I say "domain expert" I mean the person doing the job, not an outside expert. I couldn't agree more on the issue of outside experts and consultants, unless they know their place. <s> I know mine: it is to facilitate, not direct or architect. I am most successful when my clients don't need me because I have given them the information and tools they need.

LightSwitch is not and in its present incarnation won't be one of those tools. Neither will C# or VB.Net. Put the right language in VS2010 and, while a bit of overkill, it would still be a great tool.

Your list (I like it) does show a sort of scattershot approach, doesn't it? My take on it is that there are those in Redmond with the power and the intention to have MS compete, but don't quite have the vision of what would help them with this market segment.


Steven Black said…
I have a good idea about where LightSwitch fits.

LightSwitch is perfect for developers who haven't been burned yet, or burned enough, by Microsoft bandwagon technologies or, quite simply, by Microsoft marooning developers by discontinuing products.
Andrew MacNeill said…

In that case, the only thing that will save Lightswitch applications is that it is supposed to build a full VS application.

Popular posts from this blog

Well, that explains CodePlex...

In a move that will be sure to anger open source (or rather anti-paid software, anti-Microsoft open source)  zealots, Microsoft is planning to buy GitHub . A year ago, I mused about why Microsoft would shut down CodePlex and how the world needs competing source code repositories to be strong. I'm not the only one per this Slashdot article  : "...   people have warned about GitHub becoming as large as it did as problematic because it concentrates too much of the power to make or break the open source world in a single entity, moreso because there were valid questions about GitHubs financial viability...." - Jacques Mattheij I will be interested in seeing this play out - whether developers jump ship or not. Have all the efforts Microsoft has made in pushing towards open source be seen as genuine or will all the zealots jump ship or maybe even attack? Microsoft's comment about why they shut down CodePlex referred to how spammers were using CodePlex. Well, GitHub

Attending Southwest Fox 2019 could change your life - Find out how

Southwest Fox is coming up in October and as I do every year, I spoke with the organizers Rick , Doug and Tamar on the FoxShow. Deadlines for Southwest Fox: Super-saver price (before July 1): $695 Early-bird price (before August 1): $770 Regular price (August 1 and later): $820 This year, I took a different approach with separate shows for each organizer but the main message is still the same : July 1st is their Go/No-Go date. Conferences don't talk about this very often. I don't think developers really question if Apple will hold their WWDC in June or Microsoft will hold their Build conference - but that's because those conferences are vendor-led. Southwest Fox is a community-driven conference - it's not driven by a company with an agenda. Listen to the interviews and you can hear how important each of the organizers feel the live connection between speakers and among attendees.

Virtual FoxFest - A New Way to Conference

If you haven't been keeping up with the news around the Fox community, the Southwest Fox conference has gone digital now showing up as  Virtual FoxFest .  At $49, it's a steal and a great way to learn some new ideas and get inspired. While the reasoning for this change is fairly obvious with the year of COVID - for me, this is something that has been a long time coming. I appreciate many people's needs for a physical conference but the world is very large and it's difficult to get people from around the world into a single physical location. I recently attended a single-track conference via YouTube (a Quasar conference). YouTube's Live stream provided a very handy way to watch, rewind and communicate with people online. While Tamar, Doug and Rick are still making decisions related to the streaming platform, there are lots of great options available. I'm really looking forward to it. The FoxPro community has also really felt its international roots