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.NET Framework installed base - Making a business decision

We're at a point in the development of our application where we're considering the costs of maintaining and trying to market our geriatric looking MFC application, versus migrating to .NET and an updated interface. The primary question that comes in to play is the .NET Framework. We realize that with the next release of Windows, the .NET Framework will be pre-installed, but coming from a web development background, I am well aware of users' tendency to linger with old software when newer solutions are available. I'm afraid of the number of users out there who don't have the framework installed.

This leads to the core of my question. Just how many people actually have the .NET Framework already? Some people I have talked to already seem to think it's a moot point because you can just include the .NET Framework with your distrubution, but the framework is an additional 23 megabytes and adds a step to the installation process. I don't have to argue about users' attention spans; we all know they're short.

I know a hard number will be nearly impossible to come by, so I'm hoping to hear from some .NET developers who have a product in the marketplace. Are there any examples of .NET applications from major companies (>1 million annual revenue)? I hate to be a follower, but we're a small company with a limited market and I can't afford to take the un-beaten path. How has your experience with selling and supporting a .NET application been? Would you recommend it?

Thanks for any information or experiences you can share. Don't hesitate to post any information you have, regardless of how small or large your user base may be. I'm interested in it all.
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1 Solution

Wait... Stop... backup.

The .Net framework is ONLY required on the machine that executes the code.

If you are creating a web-based application your end users need to have IExplorer 5.0 or higher.  Period.

No framework, no fancy drivers, nothing to download, etc.


We use .Net all the time here at my company.  We are not using it for large revenue projects (yet), but we are using it exclusively for all of our internal projects (like a phone book app linked to ADS).

We have our web page phone app installed on a single web server.  This web server has the .Net framework.  The 1,000+ users who access this program do not.

Now... if on the other hand, we were to make a THICK client and go around and install a win-form application on all the desktops, then we would need to install the .net framework as well (23 MB).

in short, when you compile your .Net code it compiles to a dll (assembly), the .net framework is used to translate this assembly to machine code on the server that it is running on.

Also.... one thing to keep in mind.  .net will NOT run on windows 95 or earlier.  It will run on win98, but not without help.

Here are the requirements

These requirements ONLY apply to the machine that is consuming the assemblies.  That is, this doesn't really apply to end users of a web based app.
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bradleylandAuthor Commented:
I should have been more clear. When I say MFC app, I mean our C++ app built using the Microsoft Foundation Classes. It's a client app called DIP Reporter.

In my past life I was in charge of a web application development department where we made heavy use of ASP.NET/C#. I understand how .NET works, but I don't know much about successfully distributing client applications built using .NET.

Thanks for your efforts, but I'm looking for information from developers who have deployed or distributed .NET client applications commercially.
Distributing clients apps is very different...

I will say the following:

1. DO build new apps in .NET
2. More people than you think have .NET installed

Seems Microsoft set it as a critical update for a while :) (not anymore), and many people downloaded it. Also, all new versions of Windows (after XP) come with it pre-installed (WIndows 2003 Server for example). .NET framework is not a huge file, and most people have downloaded and installed it...I have already done my share of .NET window apps for my company that are distributed.

As mentioned above, two thinsg to keep in mind:
1. It will not work on 95, nor on 98 (first edition...I think, not sure about that)
2. All computers running your app will need the .NET framework..and the CORRECT version of it...so building it in version 1.1.4 and people with an older version of the framework need the newest version.

Back when I did my first .NET windows project (about 2.5 years ago), you would find very few tools to help you out here. I made a vb program run when you tried to install the cd and it checked for the following:
1. Do you have the correct MDAC files (2.6+)
2. Do you have the correct version of the .NET framework

If you did, I went on with the installation of my .NET program, but if you did not I installed the correct files from the CD (I had the MDAC and .NET redistributle on the CD). This worked great, and I have used it for a while...now however, there are better tools more intergrated. For example you can use the bootstrapper program from Microsoft: http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/downloads/tools/bootstrapper/

That is about it...good luck :)

bradleylandAuthor Commented:
Joe, thanks for your encouraging comments. We're not going to provide Windows 95 support, but Windows 98 concerns me. The product we're selling is a reporting tool for Chapter 11 bankruptcies. These companies range greatly in technological sophistication. I will certainly keep that in mind.

I still haven't been able to find any statistics regarding the percentage of computers with the framework installed. I find it a little strange considering how much companies like Macromedia hype the installed base of their Flash players. I'd also be lying if I wasn't supprised by the lack of responsed here on EE. I'm used to being flooded with responses. Hrmm. Maybe I should have posted this on the general programming page.

Thanks again. I'm going to leave the topic open for a few days, but you'll certainly be seeing some points from this one for the bootstrapper tip ;)

In terms of windows 98...I know it works on second edition...I just have not checked first edition, but I would not be shocked if it does work.
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