Now that PowerBuilder 2019 and its new C# development capabilities are in beta, we are starting to get questions about the future of PowerScript desktop apps. Specifically, does Appeon recommend developers to move away from PowerScript desktop apps? And related to this point, will Appeon be enhancing or just maintaining the features of PowerScript desktop apps?
A quick look at the PowerBuilder roadmap page and it is obvious we have put much focus on the C# language, open standards, and cloud architecture. Increasingly, most new .NET projects have such high-level requirements. Perhaps this is why the .NET framework is radically different these days – the .NET Core framework is open source, cross OS, and targeted for cloud deployment. And unfortunately, we could not use any of the .NET stuff Sybase did because it didn’t meet these requirements. So certainly, we had to put a lot of focus on non-client/server features.
Now let’s assume for the sake of argument that the cloud is the future and focus on if and how a PowerScript desktop app fits into such future. A native UI technology (e.g. PowerScript desktop app) has certain advantages over HTML (e.g. ASP.NET page) and vice versa. However, for most line-of-business apps we believe a native UI technology offers the best set of tradeoffs. Key industry players like Microsoft seem to be recognizing the shortcomings of HTML and trying to lessen this gap with Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). At Appeon, we think it makes more sense to “cloudify” the PowerScript desktop app than replace it with some other technology.
In fact, we began to “cloudify” the PowerScript desktop app the second we took over PowerBuilder, which we did on top of its existing C++ runtime and PowerScript language. Starting with PowerBuilder 2017, we introduced an all-purpose HTTP client, a REST-specific client, an OAuth2 client (with support for tokens), and JSON handling (parsing, generating, packaging). And in PowerBuilder 2019, we have significantly enhanced all of these features, especially how they integrate with the DataWindow to minimize the amount of coding you do.
But of course, there is still more work for Appeon to do with the PowerScript desktop app to make it attractive for new projects, no matter they are client/server or cloud based. This is exactly why in every single release for the foreseeable future we have planned to bring major new features to the desktop target. For example, in PowerBuilder 2019 we will revamp the UI of desktop apps. And in PowerBuilder 2021 we plan to revamp deployment of desktop apps (from the cloud). Beyond that, it would be silly of us to say now, and most vendors wouldn’t even say this much.
So to answer the main question of this blog: no, we do not think most customers should move away from PowerScript desktop apps. In case it is not obvious, Appeon is bringing major new features to PowerScript desktop apps, which are aimed at modernizing them. No matter you are looking to stay with a client/server architecture or “cloudify” your architecture, PowerBuilder 2019 can bring major change to your existing project without a rewrite. For example, our approach to UI modernization is designed to be codeless (i.e. controlled through style sheets). As another example, we invested to create an automated solution for “porting” valuable existing business logic to the cloud. Lastly, in our experience, most rewrite projects are a failure to some degree… delayed, exceeding budget, and/or not impressing app users… so surely, we don’t want to recommend our customers to take more risk than absolutely necessary.