Rumors of WPF's Death are Greatly Exaggerated


It seems that, over the last several months, people have become convinced that WPF is dead. Having seen the pace of change in previous desktop UX technologies, I think this concern is unfounded. Has the talk about WPF declined since it launched? Of course. Adoption is no longer a concern. Anyone who needs a desktop application knows WPF exists, books and training are available, and the knowledge is out there. Microsoft doesn’t really need to work hard here at this point in time. So, why the angst around WPF?

It seems that the fundamental concern is around the fact that many vendors have stopped fighting for the desktop and have resumed the fight at the browser, saying my HTML5 is better than theirs. The desktop war has gone quiet again and Microsoft still owns that platform, so they’ve visibly shifted investment from the desktop to where the battle is: in browsers and HTML5. That doesn’t mean that they’ve stopped building WPF, or WinForms, or WebForms, or MFC. But, Microsoft has visibly reduced its investment in those areas. The current set of big bets has been expensive: Azure, WP7, XBox, and Bing. A large part of the Azure investment involves moving server platforms to the cloud. That investment is particularly expensive because now everything has to work on premises and in Azure. Microsoft has limited resources and trying to get significantly more desktop functionality in the next several years just doesn’t make sense from a fiduciary point of view. The WPF team still lives, it’s just smaller than in 2005.

To appreciate the pace of innovation in WPF, take a look at this ScottGu post from 2009: http://weblogs.asp.net/scottgu/archive/2009/10/26/wpf-4-vs-2010-and-net-4-0-series.aspx.  I expect a similar amount of forward momentum in .NET 5 to add Windows 8 features for WPF developers. WPF is now a mature, stable, technology. Like other libraries in .NET, innovation is no longer around building the perfect class library but instead on enhancing the library’s usability and utility. The same things are happening in WCF, System.Transactions, System.Net, System.Security, and other namespaces that we never hear about but that we know haven’t been abandoned.

As .NET developers, we need to articulate these facts to project sponsors. When they say “I hear WPF is dead” have them look at WPF and how it has grown. Look at what it does. Explain that the investment in WPF has declined because the amount of work to get done today is incremental– support video cards better, add support to match Windows Shell innovation, improve drawing. The library is still being enhanced. http://dotnet.uservoice.com/forums/40583-wpf-feature-suggestions/topics/41002-i-suggest-you-/filter/hot tells the story of what people want and what is being accepted into the next version of WPF.

If that’s not enough, remind the naysayer that even MFC is still being enhanced.

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