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"We Can't Let Java Go the Way of WordPerfect" Says JavaLobby Founder
"We Can't Let Java Go the Way of WordPerfect" Says JavaLobby Founder

(February 28, 2002) - He has said it before. He will doubtless say it again. JavaLobby founder Rick Ross is this week circulating his most urgent rallying-cry yet to those who would preserve Java technology in the enterprise and fight off the $200,000,000 marketing campaign that Microsoft pledged to throw behind its .NET Framework now that it has officially launched Visual Studio .NET, which went into general release just two weeks ago.

"Make no mistake," says Ross in a newsletter yesterday to JavaLobby members, "this massive campaign is aimed at persuading your peers and managers to choose .NET instead of Java. It is aimed squarely at you, your job, and the technology platform in which you have invested time and energy to become an expert."

Ross's argument is that Java developers "probably have something to lose," and "may even have a lot to lose."

"Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have repeatedly stated that they have bet their whole company on .NET," Ross warns, "so you can be absolutely sure they have a lot to lose. Expect them to compete ruthlessly, and remember that they have established a track record of being willing to play dirty."

JDJ Industry Newsletter is not the place to comment on that latter allegation, but looking at the technological side of things, Ross of course has a point. When Microsoft launched Visual Studio .NET at VSLive! on February 13, there were simultaneous events around the globe. With its own Java-like OO language, C# (C Sharp), and aimed at the preexisting - and huge - community of somewhere between 6 and 8 million Visual Basic developers, VS.NET is regarded by many industry pundits as evidence that Microsoft has completely rewritten all the rules of how Windows software is built and deployed.

With corporate use of Windows as an enterprise computing platform already on the rise, this means that the .NET Framework is arguably on course to become pervasive over the next few years, and it is Ross's view that Internet technology professionals everywhere are therefore going to need to know the respective strengths of both platforms, in order properly to advise clients objectively why J2EE beats .NET for both business and technological reasons.

"We can start by focusing on the fundamentals," Ross explains. Then, repeating a point he has made again and again in recent months: "Most Java developers comprehend instinctively how important it is to have viable alternatives to the offerings of a monopolist."

"We understand intuitively," he adds combatively, "that using .NET leads directly to single vendor lock-in and everything that implies, especially when the vendor is Microsoft. If we can just be clear, articulate, and pleasant while explaining this to people who may be less passionate or knowledgeable than ourselves, then we will be a solid front line of defense against Microsoft's $200,000,000 campaign to sway public opinion in their favor. It's a simple beginning, but a powerful one."

"This is just a beginning," Ross concludes. "We can't let Java go the way of WordPerfect!"

What do you think? - How can Sun best make the Java runtime ubiquitous? How can Javaland best resist the Microsoft $200,000,000 marketing push? Is it time now perhaps for Sun to open-source the Java implementation, maybe under GPL/SCL? What more should and could Sun do to boost Java? How much is .NET a threat to Java - is it really life or death? Or will the future be interoperable, on the Web services model? Can Java and .NET in that case coexist peacefully?

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Java is doing just fine as it is and need not feel threatened by the MS juggernaut. Its advantages:

Multi-platform support -- write once, run anywhere.

Good design. I've worked with Microsoft APIs for many years and MS has an unerring instinct for appallingly bad design. With most MS APIs the only way to implement something is to find an example to start from and proceed by trial and error; high level documentation is minimal or non existent, inaccurate, and above all doesn't tell you what you need to know. They design unnecessarily complex APIs with hidden dependencies between calls, hence the need to work from an example.
Java, on the other hand, has simple, largely intuitive APIs that are a pleasure to work with.

An immense range of APIs that give you a head start on most problems.

A mass of cheap or free software.

I think open source is an unnecessary distraction -- systems that have gone that way -- GNU, Linux, etc. are not good role models. Linux, while it has a consistent kernel, is fragmented at the GUI level and in different distributions, and is going down the same path as UNIX before it -- many competing incompatible versions that will ensure that no one dominates. If Java were to go open source there is a good probability that it would also fracture into many competing strains.

Above all, we must avoid the closed minded, religeous attitude that pervades the Linux and Macintosh camps, to name but two of the ilk. While that attitude appeals to a minority, it is disturbing to the majority and leads to self delusion rather that an unbiased realistic assessment of problems that need to be addressed.

Fear of .NET only contributes to its success. Fear of losing java to Microsoft's marketing binge will only increase this possibility. Fear does not lead to action or responsibility, and that is what Java needs.

It is clear that the Microsoft way is to conquer via marketing. It is clear that Microsoft can only function by locking customers into their vertical products (ie. OS, apps, tools, frameworks). What is not clear is whether Sun can function without locking customers in.

Last time I checked, the J2EE reference implementation is only available for Windows, Linux, and Solaris. I don't see OpenBSD, MacOSX, AS/400, HPUX, AIX, or MVS. The J2EE Reference Implementation seems like a perfect vehicle for enterprises to use to remain vendor independant by compiling against this set of interfaces when building their apps. But it doesn't work. And how about getting iPlanet available on all these platforms. If java really is purporting cross-platform independence, then Sun ought to be able to make its J2EE app server very cross-platofrm. Instead, iPlanet remains the least cross-platform app server on the market.

Sun can't have it both ways, either they are forcing customers to a platform or they are not. As long as the J2EE RI does not address the major platforms with sufficient JDK support, then they cloud the customer decision and provide the weakness that Microsoft marketing will exploit. Produce for us a web services framework that does not constrict users to the underlying component model, and that can run equally well above any underlying component and messaging infrastructure. Microsoft will never be able to compete with that.

And customers/enterprises can't have it both ways, either. If you complain about Wordperfect's fate, yet use MSOffice, then your actions override your statements. Microsoft has never yearned for popularity, just consumer money...and they are very focused. So if you don't like their way of business, then don't use their products. Let folks know how you feel. Email the vendors you are dissatisfied with, and your government representatives. I can't believe we let the current administration get away with dropping the MS anti-trust case, or some of our states from dropping their cases. Microsoft IS a destructive monopoly (and the courts agree with this), but yet we think we need them to support an economy in recession. They erode the economy rather than help doesn't work both ways. At some point our economy will pay for the shortcuts we take. Just as we are now paying for the shortcuts take during the spawing of the internet, we will eventually pay for putting reliance in a vendor that forces vertical dependancies through its products and dictates to the consumer what is available.

Microsoft doesn't decide whether Java will go away. We do. Support vendors whose primary focus is to build what you want, instead of market to you want they build.

I don't think the competition will be based on Java and C#, but on the two frameworks: J2EE and .NET.

I believe MS would like to capture the Enterprise Market. In the Enterprise computing, J2EE has more to offer than the .NET, but in some areas, such as Web Services, .NET is ready to challenge J2EE.

Sun should revise the Java licensing to enable its established partners to produce better Java products, and attract new partners willing invest in the Java Technologies.

MS's success is not based on better technology, but its ability to market.

Hey All,

This is a commercial world where the name of the game is to monopolize that is Microsoft and when Uncle Sam helps out you know who is the winner.

Yes Java Technology is definately much better than .NET but who can argue when a technology is given for free on your PC installed and shipped. Who cares what happens later. Who cares about security (in short term and then even our memories are short term).

It is for all of us to decide the course of where we want to go...or to be pushed.



I think Ross makes a mistake by basing the polemics emphasis on warnings against MS monopolistic tendencies. Of course we, as Java developers, have a lot to loose. But at the end of the day the question is: Is J2EE a better technology than .NET? Approaching .NET vs J2EE politically sounds too much like an attempt to dodge the question.

I have programmed extensively in Delphi and Java. I admire both the Delphi design and Java as an OO language.
I also have been evaluating the strength and weaknesses of C#. C# is a better Java in just about all aspects of a practical OO programming language. The only thing that Java has that C# does not have is the concept of "generalized closure" implemented in inner classes. C#'s "delegates" simply do not have the power and versatility of Java's inner classes.
The Java folks did not have inner classes until jdk 1.1. I suspect the C# folks will "get the point" and implement inner classes in their next version of C#.
Thank you for allowing me to post my 2 cents.

Based on daily, personal experience:
I write/compile/test Java on NT.4 in VAJ, FTP to the S/390 (z/OS) and run it WITHOUT CHANGE...that is portability...
Where have we ever seen that from M$?

Lower the cost of entry by offering world class tools, libraries (components) and training. Netbeans, Eclipse, Sun online tutorials are all good but improving all of this by an order of magnitude will be more effective in battling Visual.Net. Going open source (GPL)is one way to accomplish this.

In otherwords make it possible for a entrepreneurial high school kid to write a great j2ee app.

Yes on the one hand MS has a history of muscling in on areas where they have not been before. But where are they after all of this time? On the desktop. Even that is not exclusively theirs, like it was at one time. The tweakers who used to tinker with MS home networks now do it on Linux. It's only a small percentage of the whole, but these are the people who go on to become influencers in technology purchasing. The market for enterprise applications is totally different. We already have mature tools at the cheapo-end: Perl, PHP, Apache etc. These tools are free to anyone who wants to have a fiddle, and mature enough to use on small projects. Next up, we have J2EE on the likes of JBOSS, Tomcat. This is still essentially freeware - but we are now in a position where we can write to an API which will scale all the way up. The big-iron is covered by the likes of BEA and IBM - and there is a whole load of little guys in-between. Yes there will probably be a shake-up here. The point is that MS is trying to enter a world where there is already strong competition at all price-points. Also it is a market where the decision makers are reasonably technical. They cannot justify their decisions on the basis of an advert they saw. Their bosses want to know about ROI, scalability, risk, vendor lock-in, and can you get it to run on our existing Sun (for example) server farm.

The only danger I see is if all IS/IT managers take the view: well MS has to come out on top... I may as well invest.

MS is doing OK with SQL server and Exchange on the backend, but it still is not doing the transactional stuff at banks and insurers. The big boys still use MVS. These people are never going to chuck their mainframes, now that they can runn J2EE apps on them. How well does XP scale compared to MVS ? Can I allocate % of CPU load to different apps on XP?
Finally, J2EE is just beginning to mature. The competition within the JAVA area has aleady helped mature the app. servers, so that they are becoming reasonably reliable, and you no longer need a degree to deploy a J2EE app.
.NET is only just released! Who would want to go through the pain we had with JAVA all over again - just to end up locked in to one vendor - on a platform that won't scale. Does .NET talk to CICS ? does it talk to varied messaging and app. standards (MQ, Tibco, SAP)? Does it have its own version of these, which run on several platforms? Maybe - but anything MS does have at the moment under the .NET (DNS, COM+, whatever) it is will not be mature. MS can't even sort the security out on IIS - and we are supposed to suddenly have a mature Enterprise Application Development and Run-Time environment.

Not only is the tech from many vendors and open-source mature, so is the API. People out there KNOW what an EJB is, what a servlet is, what a JSP is. Even people who currently develop with VB. What are the .NET equivalents Is there a community out there who have already come up with a load of design patterns which can be applied to c#/.NET? Who cares ? Maybe in a couple of years (if suddenly all of the issues: security, scalability, portability..... and JAVA will not stand still during this time. Come to think of it; why am I even bothering writing this? It will not be an issue for a few years yet. In the meantime, I've got J2EE work to do....

Rather than bickering about C# replacing Java or vice-versa, if you are a true developer, you need to focus on the strength and the weakness of these languages. C# is headed by the same guy who headed Delphi (the best Client/Server GUI tools ever written).

Having poked at Java (though not an expert), and then, working with Delphi, I have never seen such an elegant design (I'm talking about Delphi) in my life (I took a pick at PowerBuilder, but quickly dropped it; too cumbersome). C# borrows from C/C++, Java and Delphi.

C# is an elegant design, I don't care if it only runs on Wintel. The idea is, it is designed by the best engineers on earth! I have never really care about Microsoft products in the past, I only used it because I do not have a choice (job wise). But this is the second time (Delphi first), that I got so excited about a programming language. Anyway, what the heck, programming languages are just programming languages. Nothing has changed really, other than the style and the platform on which these languages run. Why? "...The growth of an IF ladder decoder occurs down the ELSE branches..." It is just a language damn it. Choose your platform. As for me, it is C#, Delphi, C++ and C.

If I am an employer, and if all you know is Java, you would be shown your way out of the door. You had better be versatile. Period.

Gbenga ("The Alchemist").

Isn't 200 mil about the same amount MS is using to market XBox? XBox has opened well, but is still getting beat on monthly sales by PS2.

Don't fear the hype!

The clear difference in the tool line (no more to me, either) is the long term usage. We leaved the MS way because we have projects in the 10year range (do anyone remember Windows 3.1?) and get problems to run this things today, so the product cycle oriented MS produces are definitely not an option for us. We use now open source products and languages which are backed up by several vendors. Operating systems like Linux are a good footage for long time enterprise development. They do not need to be free, but open.

I think that we are missing very important point here, what letter 'E' in J2EE stands for.
I have to admit, for RAD and for Windows itself(Sorry guys, AWT and Swing are not competitors here!) MS was always producing excellent tools, but never for long lasting Enterprise development! We all know how complicated and extremely business oriented Enterprise software systems are becoming lately. We are talking about years invested into the development of sofisticated systems. Let me ask you, can we do much today with applications developed in VB3 or in "16/32 bit hybrid" VB4? Can we easily migrate today's VB6 code into VB.NET, without major revision? Each upgrade for "Enterprise" applications written using MS tools is a major disaster for any company commited to MS platform. I suspect it'll be always the case with MS tools, since they want to FORCE you to buy a new tool, because THAT IS THE WAY THEY MAKE MONEY! MS intentionally ignores backward compatibility issues and doesn't really care about your ROI. I think that's where Java shines the best, along with OS interportability. Needless to mention the army of developers who polishes their knowledge of Java and J2EE platform for years, which in turn, allows them to be more productive and spend more and more of their time on delivering better business solutions, rather than on learning new set of tools (sometimes even languages) every two years!

Microsoft's strengths lies in the marketing, tech support and continuous improvement of products it sells( or bundles). Although i really appreciated and admired the way java architects created java it must do the above things to compete. u cant just stand on the beauty of the language in order to rise above the challenge.

in addition to my previous comments, I would like to point out that the "war" between the major Java vendors, Sun, Bea, IBM, Oracle and many more, are very disturbing to Java developers and supporters. One claims that they are better than the others and the others do the same thing. If they continue to argue on the things that they both produce/manufacture, "scratching" the back of the other, then, it might create confusion to Java developers and supporters and might consider migrating to .NET. Microsoft enjoys very much these "wars" because it is an advantage to them (Redmond) and because there are no other company that produce/manufacture .NET, they don't have that "common enemy" and therefore can focus on more important things, such as marketing, marketing, marketing ... and hopefully, improve, secure the .NET

For the vendors, stop arguing about who is better than the rest, but instead, bring a harmony to Java world and create a single vision towards improving the Java platform so that developers can focus on recommending, influencing companies and produce codes better.

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