Visual FoxPro 9.0, the latest update to a database technology Microsoft acquired in 1992, is generally available this week and will be supported through 2014. Visual FoxPro, which can be used to create desktop, client-server and Web service database applications, is an outlier at Microsoft. The FoxPro database engine is one of three supported by Microsoft -- the SQL Server database engine is the flagship, while the JET database engine powers the Access database in Microsoft's widely deployed Office suite.
Microsoft evolved the positioning of Visual FoxPro from a database engine like SQL Server into a development tool, but Visual FoxPro is on a separate track from Microsoft's flagship development environment, Visual Studio. While the Visual Studio and Visual FoxPro teams swap features, Visual FoxPro is a stand-alone database development tool.
The outsider status has always left Visual FoxPro's loyal user base with concerns about the product's future. But this week, Microsoft posted its support schedule for Visual FoxPro 9.0. It will adhere to Microsoft's latest support policy of five years of mainstream support and five years of extended support. Mainstream support will last until Dec. 31, 2009 and extended support will run until Dec. 31, 2014. Given that Fox Software began development of the technology in 1984, the support deadline suggests the product will enjoy at least a 30-year lifespan.
The 9.0 version that became generally available this week was released to manufacturing in December and has been available to MSDN subscribers since then. Billed as one of the biggest overhauls of Visual FoxPro since Microsoft updated and renamed FoxPro 2.6 as Visual FoxPro 3.0, the new version features the ability to create .NET-compatible solutions, better data handling and interoperability, developer productivity enhancements and new reporting features. With a user base that favors the tool for building fat client applications, the new version includes several smart client user interface improvements, especially to the appearance and functionality of forms.
The new version features backward compatibility with Visual FoxPro 8.0, allowing distributions developed in version 9.0 to run on the 8.0 database engine as long as new features and commands aren't used.
According to a FAQ, Microsoft has no plans to support 64-bit technology in Visual FoxPro or go beyond the 2 GB database size limit in the FoxPro data engine.
The estimated price of Visual FoxPro 9.0 is about $650 for a new version and $350 for an upgrade.