One of the oft quoted barriers to .net and Excel take up is the deployment hassles with the .net components. I have concerns in this area too (and have voiced them), but I wonder how obstructive they really are.
Every client I have worked with recently has at least .net 2.0 on their corporate desktops. Whilst no one seems keen to deploy more than necessary to their desktop estate, I can imagine getting say the VSTO runtimes deployed could be do-able. Everywhere I have worked uses rich powerful tools to manage their desktops, either SMS, or Altiris or similar.
Another common discovery is enterprise data sources replicated in tatty spreadsheets because the users did not know about, or could not access, or did not trust the enterprise solution.
These factors make me wonder if the challenge of .net/Excel solutions deployment is either all in the mind, or a cultural/business politics issue? I certainly don’t think there are significant technical barriers.
So if we want to boost uptake then we need to be addressing cultural/social type issues. Microsoft can’t do this alone, or maybe not even at all. They can address the technicalities, and I think they are with VSTO for example
Here are some of the obvious issues
- business users rarely have official access to .net dev tools.
- business users do not want to be tied to IT deployment requirements (time scales, quality, access, testing)
What we need are some compelling applications or systems that demonstrate how and why .net is so much better than what everyone is currently doing. Now I haven’t gone too far out of my way to look under absolutely every stone, but I haven’t come across anything in .net that made me think: wow that is so much better than anything we have now.
I have seen that with C. Fast UDFs is a compelling feature IMO. If .net could write UDFs that are as performant as the C API, but easier to learn, and safer to write, and supported on Excel services and realistic for business developers to deploy, and maybe worked with the numpty UI. Then I think .net might gain some traction with Excel devs. It would need to work (seamlessly) with more than the latest version of Excel.
.net apparently has some great UI stuff, but Excel is not Photoshop, or Powerpoint. I’m not sure glitzy UI is as important to many Excel users as the Office team seem to think. Although I’m not claiming any authority in this area – I’m not big on UI.
I have done a few data access apps in C# and it works very well. One was a command line app – C# is much better than VB6 for that, and much easier than C/C++.
Are you seeing more opportunities in .net?
Are business users starting to show more interest, or am I spending too much time in IT departments?