A free development suite is a great idea. In fact, I think I should be able to boot up my PC at home without connecting to anything and create and test RPG ILE programs. Maybe with limited file access speeds and small data sets, but I should be able to create and modify display files, data files and programs and transfer the objects to System i later. And I should be able to do all this at no charge.
Even if that were the case, even if the best, fastest and slickest development system in the world existed, for...
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free, for System i, I don't believe it would really help with sales. I don't really need better, faster, stronger development for my green screen applications. Until RPG has native support for a browser interface, very few (if any) new businesses will be interested. And I'm certain many organizations will continue to replace System i with more Web-friendly platforms.
I don't mean intricate APIs that no one has time to study. I don't mean CGIDEV2 (as good as it is). I mean input and output to browsers as if they were displays. I mean %BIFs to do the real work. I mean sitting experienced RPG ILE programmers down for a couple of hours of brief instruction and having them create real business programs, with a browser front end, as quickly and easily as they created green screen programs before. It must be simple enough that when another experienced RPG ILE programmer looks at, without any training, he or she can follow the code, figure out the new features and make changes to the program(s).
IBM needs to make it that easy. No disrespect to Mr. Cozzi and others in the System i "Guru" community, but if it isn't simple and absolutely built into the language it will not get used by the majority of shops. If you have to learn a new language or invest in third party packages, most shops will find it easier to hire non-System i Web programmers, run that part of their business on Linux or WinTel equipment, and tie things together on the back end. This leads quickly down the road to a shop that no longer needs System i.
Of course, even if it becomes that easy, there is still the cost of replacing all the green screens that many shops have in production with something that can take advantage of the browser interface. It has been my experience that many businesses are not prepared to make this investment. Some people in a company have PCs or thin clients, but others still have green screen terminals. The PCs and thin clients can use emulation to run green screen programs. But, of course, the terminals cannot run a browser, so applications still must be written and maintained so the users on the terminal can run them. As a programmer this is frustrating, but it is another reason many shops are stuck doing things the way they always have. I think it also contributes to the image of System i as old technology.
That's my two cents.
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