Everyone Says PowerBuilder Is Dead – But Is It Dead?
Being a career PowerBuilder developer like myself, I keep a close eye on the marketplace and where I think PowerBuilder is headed. Part of the reason that I stick with the tool is because I believe it is technically superior to most of the other development tools out there but the competition is catching up. Microsoft has been trying to catch up for years unfortunately they cannot stay focused on something long enough to make it “great” like PowerBuilder did. Java has a very nice niche in the market, well niche may be too strong a word as Java is very alive in the corporate world with large enterprise applications but it has never reached critical mass like PowerBuilder did and probably never will.
Will PowerBuilder ever be the tool of choice again? Highly unlikely but not impossible.
Is PowerBuilder staging a come-back, or is it in a final dead-cat-bounce?
Checking PowerBuilder’s Pulse – Quiet Please – Yes We Have A Pulse
There really is no fool proof way to determine whether a technology is on the rise or decline however, there are some things you can use as a guideline.
- PowerBuilder Job Listings
- PowerBuilder Developer Rates
- PowerBuilder Information (e.g. Blogs, Articles, Questions, Books)
- Search Engine Statistics
PowerBuilder Job Listings
It is my opinion that PowerBuilder jobs are more plentiful in 2012 than they were in 2010-2011. I have also noticed that rates are about the same as they were when PowerBuilder was at it’s peak and most companies are becoming very flexible to catch a top-notch PB developer. It is becoming quite common to get work-from-home contracts doing PB, and the companies not offering this perk are having difficulty finding qualified developers. I know of a few companies having problems getting developers and I won’t mention any names but they can’t get beyond the old belief that if you aren’t sitting at your office desk then you aren’t working mentality.
My current contract is a WFH, and I do travel to the office occasionally if needed, but generally speaking I am as productive or more productive working from home. We use several tools to bridge the communication gap that is lost when people are not physically working together, such as instant messenger and online collaboration tools. We also meet often via conference call to make sure communication channels are wide open. Before I started doing WFH, I traveled on a weekly basis for several months to get familiar with the business and people and I feel that initial time at the company was important. Anyway I digress.. the subject of this article isn’t about working from home.
PowerBuilder Developer Rates
PB contract rates seem to be about the same as they were when PB was in it’s prime. In the 20 years I’ve been doing PowerBuilder development I have seen many different rates but they tend to be focused in the $50-60/hourly area and have not changed much since the ’90′s
- Senior PB Developer in D.C Area might command $80-$90 hourly
- Senior PB Developer in most areas will be able to pull $50-$60′s hourly
- I have seen rates as low as the $40′s hourly but they are typically for desirable contracts or remote office (work from home) situations.
PowerBuilder Information & Demand For PB Info
I use statistics from this website to help me decide which way things are headed. This site has had increases in traffic since its’ start in March of 2012 and most searches are for PowerBuilder information. Based on the demand for articles on this website it appears that PowerBuilder is making some sort of a come-back; or at minimum a dead-cat-bounce. Many of the searches leading to this website are questions about converting or migrating from another technology so that isn’t overly positive.
PowerBuilder Search Engine Statistics
I recently found a tool that is pretty neat for checking out trends, it is called just that… Google Trends. You can use Google Trends to see how a particular search term has increased or decreased over time.
Google Trends confirms PowerBuilder has been on a very long decline from its’ peak. Google Trends only goes back to 2004 so it is difficult to see exactly when PB peaked. There seems to be some evidence that interest in PowerBuilder is slowly increasing in 2012.
PowerBuilder – The long and steady decline
PowerBuilder Comeback – Or PowerBuilder Dead-Cat-Bounce
The google search statistics seem to indicate an increase in searches for PB Jobs. This could mean more people are looking and fewer jobs, but the trend typically is in alignment with the popularity of the tool. PowerBuilder Training has a similar trend. Interestingly Java, ASP.NET, Silverlight are all on a very noticeable downtrend. Android development which is often accomplished via a Java based language is RED HOT right now.
The X Factor – PowerBuilder Datawindow Technology?
Why are some shops starting NEW development in PowerBuilder, are they crazy or are there still some believers out there? Is it possible someone is asking why a staff of one PB developer is able to improve multiple legacy PB applications with high levels of customer satisfaction and without the need for third party tools to improve the UI or to perform reporting, something PB is awesome at by itself.
Many of the mainstream development languages have been incorporating very cool development methodologies (repository models, dependency injection, inversion of control, etc.) that improve productivity and ease maintenance down the road but PowerBuilder is fully capable of implementing these methodologies which would further add to it’s ability to develop good applications. The reverse can’t be said for the datawindow technology which is specific to PowerBuilder and the reason I am wondering if it is the “X factor”.
Imagine if the cloudy future surrounding PowerBuilder went away… the possibilities would be exciting. Perception is so valuable in everything we do in life and this is no exception.
Well take the information for what it’s worth. I think there is definitely more demand than supply for PB developers but I’m not about to stop learning new technologies and bank on PB staying alive forever.
I appreciate the comments on this article and have made a few slight corrections based on them. If you have any strong feelings about the article one way or another let me know and I’ll consider corrections where they are warranted.