Img_0101Recently I’ve been thinking about the vendors that I cover and wondering which has really had the most impact on app dev — for better or for worse.

Forget which vendor’s tool has the best bells and whistles. Which vendor has really made the most difference? Which vendor has delivered products or services that have really improved project outcomes? Or resulted in worse project outcomes? Not just a single project outcome, but hundreds or even thousands of project outcomes.

I’m not asking which vendor’s cool technology has improved productivity by 10% on proje cts where it was applied. I’m looking for far more broad-reaching impact than that. I’m after the vendors that have changed the way development works. This post is about who those vendors are — my ideas, and a request for yours.

Why IBM Rational Gets R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The respect that application development professionals have for vendors isn’t always determined by their current product sets. Rather, it’s accumulated over years when vendors deliver innovative capabilities that help app dev shops make real breakthroughs. For example, consider the respect IBM Rational has accumulated from:

As you can probably guess, I think that IBM Rational has had a positive impact on software development in general.

Sun, JUnit, ThoughtWorks, And iRise Have Made A Difference, Too

Who else has done so? Here are my four nominations:

  • Sun, by making Java a platform as well as a language and by making it bigger than Sun itself by opening it up with the Java Community Process.
  • Junit (not a vendor, but as powerful a force), because manual unit testing doesn’t make economic sense and if it doesn’t work at the code level it isn’t going to work on at the system level.
  • iRise, by waking the market up to the limitations of textual requirements and providing an accessible and effective alternative.
  • ThoughtWorks, by pioneering Agile practices on complex enterprise projects and proving that Agile isn’t just for simple Web development.

Did Visual Basic Have A Lasting Impact On App Dev?

What about Microsoft? Does Microsoft belong on this list? Forrester’s CEO, George Colony, thinks Microsoft has made a difference in general, but what about in app dev?

Ist2_4414731_sliced_bread_2 One of my colleagues, Mike Gualtieri, thinks it does because he can’t get over how cool the code-behind feature was in VB. "The best thing since sliced bread at the time," he says. But did it really advance the state of app dev? Think about it. Maybe code-behind didn’t, but VB itself still did.

I’d like to ask you: What one or two big things do you think Microsoft has done that have most advanced the state of application development as a discipline? Please leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Who Else Has Moved The App Dev Needle?

By “application development” I don’t just mean coding. I also mean all of the activities that surround coding, like requirements, testing, and processes and methodologies. There’s more to getting software out the door than just writing code.

Tell us which vendor you think has done more than just sell products and services and has really advanced the discipline of application development. Or tell us which vendor has set app dev back! Leave a comment with your nomination(s).

Carey Schwaber