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The PowerBuilder of Web Application Development

The PowerBuilder (PB) Phenomenon

PowerBuilder was a phenomenon in the 1990’s, achieving market dominance beyond what any other development tool dreamed of. If you were building enterprise client-server applications in the ’90’s there is a good chance you were using PowerBuilder or you had friends that were using PowerBuilder.

PB is an object-oriented client-server development tool and Interactive Development Environment (IDE) used mainly for creation of business applications against corporate database management systems such as Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server and Sybase SQL Server.

Who will become the next PowerBuilder?

Most developers that have been in the Information Technology field for a few years have heard of PowerBuilder (PB) possibly they have maintained an existing in-house PB application or they have heard horror stories about a PB application that was poorly designed. As client-server becomes less popular there seems to be three main groups of thought surrounding PowerBuilder.

There is still a small group of die-hard PowerBuilder supporters that still believe it is the strongest tool on the market and hoping that the new PB12 offering is enough to get it into the web development arena. A second group has witnessed poorly designed PB applications which became common due to the large number of PB developers that were not trained enough to use the powerful tool. The third main group are prior PB developers who have moved on to other technologies but are still waiting for that next dominant tool out there that gives them the productivity they remembered with PowerBuilder.

The goal of finding the “PowerBuilder of Web 2.0”, isn’t literal. We are not trying to find another PowerBuilder or tool exactly like it, instead we are looking for a tool that “stands-out” ahead of all competition making development fun again. As of now there are many good tools but no outstanding ones. Who will be the next to dominate the development languages for the next decade or two, that is the real question here.

Some Big Players

Microsoft is always in the picture when it comes to technology and they are doing an exceptional job, offering some very powerful development languages available in a robust IDE called Visual Studio. Microsoft has come a long with the.NET Framework, C# (C Sharp) and Silverlight 4. I believe that the Microsoft.Net Framework 4 along with Silverlight 4 are amazing tools that are fun to use. Microsoft is second to none when it comes to documentation and beautiful interfaces. If a developer is going to be using a tool from 9 to 5 every day they want it to be pleasing to the eye, powerful and loaded with documentation. Microsoft is gaining market acceptance rapidly and depending what they come up with next I think Microsoft has a very real chance of gaining mass market acceptance in the corporate world, just as PowerBuilder did in the ’90’s.

Java has been around for a long time, is widely taught at colleges and known by a lot of developers. For some reason Java has failed to reach market dominance when it comes to corporate application development. Many new developers feel alienated by the “core” Java developers who develop by the book and are new developers feel unwelcome. Java has become very overloaded and messy due to the amount of time it has evolved without a major rewrite and the politics involved with Open Source development. Java is relatively complex to learn and is surrounded with open-source technologies that are poorly documented and in a constant state of change. It is my opinion that Java will be around for a long time but it will never be the next PowerBuilder of the web.

Notable Player

WaveMaker is a rapid application development IDE that is Java based but is simple enough that developers can build applications without the steep learning curve associated with Java. WaveMaker is still young and if they can improve in a few key areas they could very well achieve market dominance in a short time. It is worth mentioning that WaveMaker has the CEO of PowerSoft (original owner of PowerBuilder) as a member of their board of directors.

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