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Update: Users push Microsoft to extend VB6 support

The move aims to help users find data on their systems

By Carol Sliwa
March 14, 2005 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Hundreds of users with heavy investments in Visual Basic 6 code have urged Microsoft Corp. to reconsider its 3-year-old decision to end mainstream support for the development environment at the end of the month.

More than 2,000 IT professionals and developers—including over 200 "Most Valuable Professionals," whom Microsoft has honored for their contributions to online and off-line technical communities—signed an online petition calling on the vendor to continue support for the core Visual Basic language for an unspecified period.

The petition also asks Microsoft to further develop VB6 and the Visual Basic for Applications companion tool and suggests that Microsoft include an updated version with its Visual Studio development suite.

"There's nothing so far that I've run into that I can't do with VB6. So there's no incentive to go anywhere else," said Morgan Haueisen, a principal engineer at the Royston, Ga.-based consumer products division of Johnson & Johnson.

Haueisen, who signed the petition, said his division "couldn't live without" 15 VB6 applications that have an average of 44,000 lines of code apiece. Haueisen said he tried to convert a simple application to Microsoft's newer VB.Net environment, but despite hours of work, he wasn't able to get it to run because VB6 and VB.Net have some differing functions and he couldn't find the comparable functions in VB.Net.

Migrating the applications would take "a major, major amount of time," Haueisen said. "You'd have to start doing all that over again, and that's just not feasible."

Two of 30 VB users who responded to an e-mail poll conducted by Computerworld last week reported easy conversions from VB6 to VB.Net using automated tools. But a user at one large bank said the conversion of 12 to 15 applications was difficult, and another 20 users said they either have converted only a small number of applications with difficulty or have not migrated their VB6 applications. Many cited the time and expense that likely would be required.

An IT architect at a manufacturer who asked not to be identified said his company has been slowly migrating applications for two years. The effort can be so difficult that the company's developers sometimes find it's easier to just rewrite the code, he said.

"VB6 is becoming the Cobol of the client-server world. It's going away, but very slowly," said James Brockman, a long-time VB developer who is vice chairman of the Jefferson City, Mo.-based Windows Developers Group.

Microsoft, which released VB6 in 1998, notified customers nearly three years ago that the mainstream support phase would end on March 31. Paid support options will be available for the next three years, and Microsoft will continue to provide security patches for the VB6 runtime free of charge, said Jay Roxe, a Visual Basic product manager.

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