PowerBuilder Market Share

Oh PowerBuilder where fore are thou market share? For those that do not know, Sybase’s PowerBuilder was the it thing in the mid nineties. During the Client/Server rage PowerBuilder was one of the first on the scene that provided this capability.

Unfortunately as we have seen time and time again, getting there first doesn’t always mean that you will become or stay the most successful in a market. As competing technologies from Microsoft and Sun played catchup throughout the late nineties, PowerBuilder started to lose market share. During the internet boom Microsoft and Sun had very deep pockets that allowed them to throw massive amounts of money at development and marketing. It really seems that they bought their market share by marketing the public to become convinced that their technologies were the ones to develop on.

I came to PowerBuilder fairly recently (~2 years ago) at PowerBuilder version 8. The die hards out there remember PB version 1. I had worked in all of the Microsoft languages and also Java. While they were quite good and allowed me to do some amazing things in development, I was shocked when I was introduced to PowerBuilder. Or I should say I was shocked to discover one of the main features of PowerBuilder. The object known as the DataWindow.

For those that do not know, the DataWindow is an object which allows one to very rapidly create forms and reports based on SQL queries. It is the closest thing to black magic I have seen in a long while. Lets compare it to say classic VB.

Say we want to create a form which allows us to perform all of the basic CRUD operations on a table containing employees with the following columns (ssn, firstname, lastname, address1, address2, city, state, zip).

VB World:
First we create a form with text boxes for each of our columns. We add a datacontrol to the form that has our selection query from the employees table. Then we must link each text box to its appropriate column. We must add buttons and then actually write the code to perform the insert, update, delete operations……and on and on and on… too much work.

PowerBuilder using the DataWindow:
Create new DataWindow object based on our query (select * from employees;) The DataWindow automatically generates a form for us prepopulated with input fields for each column in our table. We set the form up so that it is visually pleasing to us. We click Save. Done. You now have full CRUD capabilities from our datawindow. The DataWindow object full encapsulates the functionality for Executing our query, Deleting Records, Inserting new records, and Updating records. Pure brilliance.

Now Sybase has quite a few things going for it when it comes to PowerBuilder that I hope will move things back towards the way things were:

  • Many Legacy Applications – There are many applications in Government agencies, Financial institutions, and the Insurance industry that are written in PB. Porting them to a new language is a major undertaking
  • Incredible User Community – I have not seen a community more devoted and involved in spreading the good word of PowerBuilder than the Sybase community. From an amazingly active set of newsgroups forums.sybase.com to their very own set of “Super Users” called Team Sybase to the formal user group ISUG
  • PocketBuilder mobile development environment – the pocket version of PowerBuilder has been turning quite a few heads. It has the power of the desktop application software in the compact form.
  • DataWindow.Net – realizing that MS had made some serious inroads on the development community, the power and wonder of the DataWindow has been ported to function as an object in the .Net environment

I am quite pleased with the success of PocketBuilder and DataWindow.Net. I think that these two things could really bring PowerBuilder back to the masses in a huge way. Always nice to see that the skills one has put time in to gaining maintain their importance in the technology market. As a certified PowerBuilder 9 Developer working here in Alabama I look forward to PowerBuilder getting the credit they deserve for creating fantastic tools that allows rapid application development.

If you have never checked out PowerBuilder. Take a peek at the Sybase webpages linked here. You will be amazed at what it can do. Feel free to leave me comments with your thoughts.

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