I was flipping through my usual onslaught of tech feed this morning when I came across this article from Mary Jo Foley.
The long and short of this article is that Microsoft is apparently working on a new tool to make it easier for people (non-developers) to build .NET applications. The inspiration for this tool comes from the good old days of FoxPro/Visual FoxPro development and other “app builder” tools that let people drag and drop various types of features that wrapped (mostly) hidden code underneath bound GUI controls and let Excel Users build apps.
Here’s a quote from her article, which is actually quoting her source on the subject:
“KittyHawk is targeting the corporate guy with some Excel/Access savvy,” said one of my tipsters, who asked for anonymity. “It is a drag and drop, template-driven, visual designer….It’s not code-based, but you can write code if you want to.”
No. In the name of all that is good and decent and sane on this planet… NO. I can say with reasonable certainty that there is less than 6 degrees of separation between any developer and the nightmarish contrail flaming behind the zealous efforts of some corporate guy with Excel savvy. A tool that allows these people to do more damage is absolutely unwarranted.
Remember Microsoft Access? Remember when the corporate guys would grab Access so that they could harmlessly store some business information that pertained to their daily workflow? Remember, that was nice and before the apocalypse. Then, invariably, each one of these people started putting more and more mission-critical stuff into that DB and then they put GUIs on it. Then, because this was such a useful tool, they shared the app. This shared app then grew and grew until it became self-ware and literally devoured the entire office. Finally, as this story always ends the same way, someone from IT was tasked with converting this Access DB/Excel sheet/pile of sticky notes into a legitimate, supportable, maintainable application. It is a tale as old as time, and has no Disney ending where the prince and princess live happily ever after.
All joking aside, I think there’s a serious gap here between reality and the scenario Microsoft is attempting to enable. There is a huge gap between the type of things needed to support a corporate guy and their Excel spreadsheet and the type of things needed to build a real-world application that plays nicely on a corporate intranet. Giving non-developers a tool like this to build business applications and expect them to perform and behave and stay functional the same way that an app built by a real developer would is myopic at best. This is just my opinion, but it’s an opinion burned into my brain from having seen tools like this cause insane amounts of damage, lost time, and lost money.
Here’s to hoping nobody lets any of their corporate guys use KittyHawk.