The State of Visual FoxPro
Visual FoxPro and the Community that vigorously supports it has made many positive strides in the last year. With Visual FoxPro 9.0 in hand, Sedna on the horizon, and many Community driven efforts to improve and enhance the language, the state of Visual FoxPro is strong and will continue to strengthen in the coming years. Visual FoxPro and the experienced developers that are working in it are providing customers with a sound, cost-effective, high-performance alternative for their data-centric applications. Customers respond to value and Visual FoxPro developers continue to deliver that value day-in and day-out using the greatest data-centric development tool Microsoft currently has in its product line. This is not hype, this is not wishful thinking… this is the simple truth. When it comes to creating today’s data-centric applications, Visual FoxPro has absolutely no equal.

Fox Team changes
Many may have noted over the last year that a number of key Microsoft Fox Team employees have left the fold. Randy Brown, a program manager with over 10 years on the team, influenced or had a hand in more Visual FoxPro features than any other individual on the planet. John Koziol, in charge of managing the testing for Visual FoxPro, helped develop a testing strategy that led to one of the most stable releases of Visual FoxPro to date in version 9.0 of the product. And last, but not least, Ken Levy, to many the face of Visual FoxPro at Microsoft, has announced today that he is leaving the Microsoft Fox Team. I am grateful for everything these men contributed and wish them well in there new endeavours or positions at Microsoft.

What is one to make of all this turn-over at the Microsoft Fox Team? Nothing. Yep, that’s right… not a thing. Call it an omen or a passing of some symbolic torch if you will, but to me and many others it has next to no impact on Visual FoxPro, the developers that work with it, and last, but most importantly, the customers we serve. Microsoft employees come and go on the Fox Team just as they do in many Microsoft departments. If you ask me, it is a sheer testament to the Visual FoxPro product and the loyalty that it engenders that people like Randy Brown and Ken Levy stayed with the Fox Team for as long as they did. We can certainly while away our keystrokes on the members we’ve lost, but in this State of the Language address, I think I’ll talk about some of the people and things that have been gained or are still around.

Richard Stanton
Showed up sometime in 2002 after he graduated and along with a contractor or two (Colin Nicholls?) turns out the Visual FoxPro 9.0 reporting engine, the features and capabilities of which few VFP developers have begun to scratch. You rock Richard! And, don’t think for a moment that your efforts and brilliance went unnoticed at this end.

Calvin Hsia
Lead developer on Visual FoxPro for some time and still using his free-time to post great Visual FoxPro-related content on his blog. YAG has no doubt buried him in work on the LINQ project for Visual Studio 9.0, but it’s not Calvin’s fault. Calvin has a better understanding of the code in Visual FoxPro’s core than anyone else alive and much of his previous work and experience made Visual FoxPro 9.0 possible. Developers of Visual FoxPro applications benefit on a daily basis from the hardwork that Calvin put into the product.

Milind Lele
A relatively fresh face on the Microsoft Fox Team that is now the VS Data Program Manager. Whatever that ostentatious title may mean, he appears to be the man in charge of Sedna and by extension, Visual FoxPro moving forward. I spoke with Milind Lele at length down at the 2005 Southwest Fox Conference and I can tell you that he comes from a Security-based background and is very bright. I expect to see great things from Milind. Note to self: Stop sucking up to Ken Levy and start sucking up to Milind Lele.

Extensibility, new EULA, and Sedna
These are the building blocks that make it possible for Visual FoxPro to be improved and enhanced outside of Microsoft. There are hundreds of features in Visual FoxPro 9.0 that few Visual FoxPro developers even know about. These features allow Visual FoxPro to be extended and improved in ways yet to be imagined. That coupled with the surprising EULA change for XSource, shows that Microsoft’s Fox Team is clearly empowering Visual FoxPro developers to collaborate and work together to share enhancements and improve Visual FoxPro in a big way. There’s more to this story, though I am regrettably contractually unable to speak about it. Needless to say more tricks are up sleeves and the future for Visual FoxPro, the developers that work in it, and the customers that rely on it is as bright as we want to make it.

The Visual FoxPro Community
The only crew of developers big enough, experienced enough, and in-touch enough with the needs of the hundreds of thousands of customers we produce and maintain applications for to take Visual FoxPro where it needs to go. As we make the transition from a language mostly improved/enhanced by scant resources at Microsoft to one that is improved and furthered by this large Community of developers devoted to inventing Visual FoxPro’s future, you’re going to see an explosion of resources, enhancements, and visibility for Visual FoxPro. The fuse has already been lit by countless blogs, podcasts, forums, downloads, community driven efforts like SednaX, and a fundamental change in the mindset of most Visual FoxPro developers.

Blitzy ad campaigns
Ultimately we developers and the customers out there that are so ill-served by flavor of the month languages for serious data-centric applications hold the cards. Visual FoxPro and our future is what we make of it. Make no mistake, this isn’t business as usual for us, or for Microsoft. Visual FoxPro is absolutely the best product Microsoft has or will have for the foreseeable future when it comes to building data-centric applications. We know it and Microsoft certainly knows it (they’re working overtime at MS to implement FoxPro-like features into Visual Studio). And, the great thing about customers, is they know value when they see it and are not as swayed by marketing hype as they once were. Blitzy ad campaigns don’t solve problems and empower businesses to make the most of their information. Blitzy ad campaigns don’t allow companies to work smarter by lowering risk and improving efficiency. Blitzy ad campaigns are designed to sell a product and make the vendor of that product money. Sometimes the product featured in the ad campaign lives up to the hype, but more often than not it doesn’t. Far too often the developer is less productive and experienced with the new tool and the customer is given less bang for their hard earned buck. Developers or customers that make critical business decisions based on blitzy ad campaigns are far too often burned these days.

No ad campaign here, just value
On the other hand, Visual FoxPro, is about the business of saving developers and customers time, decreasing risk, maximizing the potential of information, increasing efficiency and lowering costs. No blitzy ad campaign from Microsoft, just developers with loads of experience and a development tool that has been improving and cranking out solutions for decades that best serve the customer’s needs. If you’re in the market for a great data-centric development tool or a solution created with one, then you owe it to yourself and your company to give Visual FoxPro 9.0 and the developers that work in it a serious look.

God bless our customers, and God bless Visual FoxPro!