We've been getting an increasing amount of emails enquiring about the future of FinalBuilder since Microsoft announced Visual Studio Team System, and before that MSBuild. It seems we're not the only vendor getting this sort of email, Sourcegear's Eric Sink commented about this in his blog last month and again recently.
MSBuild was first shown last year at PDC in LA, before that I hadn't heard about it. I can tell you that at first I was crestfallen, I could see my business going down the tubes and the prospect of once again looking for a job looming. Fortunately we're still surviving and I haven't had to go out looking for a job yet :)
Since PDC, more information and betas have become available and I've become more comfortable with how msbuild will affect us. I still believe FinalBuilder offers a superior Automated Build Environment which is much easier to use and much more flexible. Sales have improved since PDC, and I think that is in part because developers are more aware of automated builds in general and are looking for something easier to use than manually editing xml files.
In FinalBuilder 2.5 we added an MSBuild Action (along with actions for Ant & NANT), so FinalBuilder already supports building VS 2005 projects (the project files are msbuild files), and of course when VS2005/.NET 2.0 gets closer to release we'll look at tighter integration (it's a moving target at the moment).
Visual Studio Team System
VSTS is a huge product, and from what we've seen so far (TechEd videos and the info on msdn) it looks very exciting, but it won't be for everyone. It's already becoming apparent that the full product won't be included in an MSDN Universal subscription (see the comments by ) , and my feeling is the server product (Foundation Server, which is required) won't be cheap (apart from also requiring mssql which is itself not cheap). I get the impression that Microsoft are positioning VSTS to compete with IBM/Rational, and to a lesser degree with Borland (who's ALM products like StarTeam & CaliberRM are direct competitors).
Are we happy that Microsoft are now planning to compete with us? Well of course not, but it's no use us crying over it. I do think Microsoft treading a fine line, they need a healthy third party developer tools market, without it the microsoft platform will stagnate and become less attractive (especially if vendors actually get serious about linux). Sadly any hope of a level playing field went out like a damp squid a few years ago...
So what's the future hold for FinalBuilder?
I suspect many developer tools vendors will suffer, and ultimately go out of business (or change their target markets).We don't intend that to let that happen to us however only time will tell.
Our position with FinalBuilder has always been to support as many products (equally well) as we can without an agenda (we don't have a compiler or version control product to push). To this end we already have around 200 actions in FinalBuilder supporting products from many different vendors such as microsoft, borland & java compilers, help generators, version control systems like StarTeam, Perforce, CVS, SourceGear Vault, QVCS, installers like InnoSetup, InstallShield, Wise etc. Many of these products Microsoft will never support themselves. Of course we can't support everything ourselves and we don't have the resources of Microsoft, however we won't shy away from supporting products that compete with Microsoft's.
Work on the next major version of FinalBuilder has already begun, currently we're in the R phase of R&D, but our plans are taking shape quite nicely. We've come up with enough new features to fill several major revisions, over the next few weeks we'll be trimming that down to what we think is the most usefull features and what can realisticaly be achieved with the resources and time that we have, and then we'll be getting stuck into the D phase of R&D. I'm not going to start talking about release dates just yet, far too early for that.
We have also been finishing off FinalBuilder 2.7 which we hope to release this week. FinalBuilder 2.7 includes some nice new flow control type actions to make it even easier than before to create a dynamic build process. FinalBuilder 2.7 is a free update for all registered 2.x users.