Study: Visual Basic use may be slipping

A survey of programmers using Microsoft's Visual Basic language finds that many are considering a move to more modern languages, like Java and C#.

Martin LaMonica
Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
2 min read
Microsoft's popular Visual Basic development language--used by about half of all professional programmers--may be on the wane, according to a new study.

Market researcher Evans Data said Tuesday that 52 percent of software developers surveyed use Visual Basic today, but that 43 percent of them plan to move to other languages, including Java and C#, a Java-like language developed by Microsoft.

Visual Basic is widely used in corporations because it is seen as a tool for quickly building Windows applications. By contrast, languages such as C, Java or C# require more developer skill and are generally used for applications that require faster performance.

"As they leave Visual Basic 6.0 behind, developers are choosing languages that help them work more easily with emerging technologies such as wireless and Web services development," Esther Schindler, senior analyst at Evans Data, said in a statement.

In response to the report, Microsoft said it is taking several steps to ease the transition from Visual Basic 6.0 to the latest version of the tool called Visual Basic.Net 2003. It is also seeing some Visual Basic developers make the transition to Microsoft's C#-based tool, called Visual C#.Net 2003.

"The move to Visual Basic .Net for a Visual Basic 6 developer is not as difficult as our competitors would like you to believe. The move from VB 6 to Java is far easier said than done," said Chris Flores, lead product manager for Visual Studio.Net. He also cited statistics showing that the performance of Visual Basic applications improved with the latest version of Microsoft's tool.

Citing data from market researcher Gartner, Microsoft said there are about 3 million Visual Basic developers.

Because the Visual Basic programmer population is so large, Microsoft has a big stake in keeping those developers within the Microsoft tools fold. But the Evans Data survey of 600 developers in North America found that many Visual Basic developers are exploring non-Microsoft options, like Java, which they see as more suitable for new projects. Microsoft sells a Java tool, called Visual J#, but it can only be used for development of applications that run on Windows.

The good news for Microsoft is that at least some programmers leaving Visual Basic are choosing Microsoft's C#. The other popular alternative to Visual Basic is Java, according to Evans Data, which has grown in use in recent years among business software developers.

Thirty-nine percent of those developers who reported that they are decreasing their use of Visual Basic said they intend to program with C#, while 31 percent said they plan to move from Visual Basic to Java, according to the study. Of those developers who said they would stick with Visual Basic, one-third said they plan to upgrade to Visual Basic.Net 2003.

Microsoft developed C# as an alternative to Java in 2000. Microsoft sells a bundle of programming tools, called Visual Studio.Net, that contains Visual Basic, Visual C++, Visual C# and other tools.

Tools based on Java, originally created by Sun Microsystems, are sold by several companies including Sun, IBM, Borland Software and Oracle.