Goodbye Acropolis, I hardly knew you
Ok, well, this is a catchy title, but this is the way I feel right now. When Acropolis was announced, it was supposed to become the industrialized replacement for the CAB (Composite UI Application Block) and the SCSF (Smart Client Software Factory). Unfortunately, the design focus seems to have shifted a bit. When I see the announcement of the second preview of Acropolis (July 2007 CTP), I'm very disappointed to see that the main new "features" revolve around the "fun" aspects of software applications more than around "enteprise" features. If Acropolis is here to help you create bling-bling applications, well it's not the application framework we need.
In the new preview, the major improvements are related to the support for transitions (fancy animations when switching views - rotations, 3D effects and the like...), and the support for theming (custom themes and styles). Of course there are also improvements on the design-time support, but when I see "for instance, you can now use the Application Designer to select your themes.", this does not look like something critical.
It's very disappointing to see that Microsoft is focusing on the eye-candy features at this stage of the development...
At my client - a major bank - we need to create modular applications because all the software pieces created in-house have to work together and with the current growth we need to foster reuse through the creation of components. We also need to speed up the development of new applications and provide guidance for the developers. This is why we developed an application framework using the CAB and a custom guidance package. We provide the developers with a custom shell and templates for their projects. The modules developers create are hosted in a common shell that provides a standard set of services. Considering that my post in the Acropolis forum didn't receive any answer, it looks like this is not the way Acropolis is heading.
Also, in the user interface we build, we tend to rely on Visual Studio-like docking. This allows us to create integrated business environments, similar to the IDEs (Integrated Development Environments) we all know. Again this does not seem to be part of the Acropolis plan.
I've just noticed that someone has already raised concern about this in the Acropolis forum
. Brad Abrams's reply to the concern aims to be reassuring, but I'm not fully convinced. "Keep in mind, we are still very, very early in the acropolis project...there is time to develop the core ideas more fully." Personally, I'd like to see the the "core ideas" developed first, before the decorative features.
We'll wait to see where Acropolis goes next, because it's to early to throw it away like I appear to do with the title of this post. However, if it doesn't move in the right direction, we may have to create our own tool to build composite and standardized applications. Maybe we'll stick to CAB and improve it, or start from scratch after all.