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“Critically Important Commentary”…or Soul-Selling? The Great Java Debate continues…
“Critically Important Commentary”…or Soul-Selling? The Great Java Debate continues…

The international Java community continues to express a colorful range of opinions on the controversially forward-looking JDJ April editorial by editor-in-chief Alan Williamson, titled somewhat ominously "There May be Trouble Ahead."

Miles Parker (milesparker@earthlink.net) is in no doubt: "What an incredibly important commentary," he declares. "It is literally laughable to suggest that Alan has some kind of pro-MS, anti-Java bent. Instead, what he is offering is something we all need to hear."

"Strangely," Parker continues, "companies and developer communities have never lost by overestimating Microsoft, they have always lost by underestimating them! … Please please, let us not be like Netscape ("we own the browser market"), IBM, Sybase, soon to be Palm, and so many companies in between."

Referring to some of the criticisms that the editorial provoked, including one reader who insisted he would be burning all his copies of Java Developer's Journal, Parker comments: "That Alan have received such a load of BS because he is willing to ask real questions is dismaying, to say the least, and makes me think that Java developers are more concerned about living in a state of comfortable and smug denial than in fighting to protect the diversity and strength that Java and associated tools have provided."

"If we aren't honest with ourselves and willing to fight this battle day to day in the trenches," he continues we will lose and indeed there will not be much left of Java in five years. Ask yourself, what did you think of the prospects of Netscape in 1997? Now we know that they were already doomed, in large part because of their own arrogance. We cannot afford to have our heads in the sand! .NET is a very real threat."

C# Isn't Why Java Will Die: New Tasks Trigger New Programming Languages
Christophe de Dinechin (descubes@earthlink.net) is in no doubt that no computer language can expect immortality, Java included. "Yes, Java is going to die," he says, "and 5 years might be a good time frame. But C# is not the reason. The reason is that we will need to do things in 5 years that Java doesn't do well. A new environment will replace Java, just as Java replaced C++ when the Internet became the place to be, just as C++ replaced C, just as C replaced Pascal, etc. New tasks = new programming language."

"By this reasoning, however," de Dinechin adds, "C# should not displace Java, simply because it only does what Java does, with little more. Naturally, C# has the capability to evolve."

Avram Aelony (aelony@mpi.com) disagrees that Java has only 5 years to live. "There seem to be quite a few elderly languages with less promise than Java," he points out, "that refuse to die. Diversity is good. And if you could write an app in your favorite idiomatic language and the compiler's task was to make it run fast anywhere, then there also is room for C# in the world."

For Sarwar Mansoor (smansoor@sbcglobal.net) however, C# is simply not something to be mentioned in polite company. "After reading this I have lost faith in JDJ," he complains. "I thought this was true journal on Java. I am reading Java Pro from now on. I code for a living and love coding but I am not selling my soul."

John Harrisburg (jharrisburg@adt.com) takes issue with this. "You can read JavaPro until they out of business like JavaReport did," he retorts. "Do you remember Java Report? Where are they now? Gone. … JDJ is the only honest Java magazine out there."

Tools Are the Key
British developer Nick Riordan (nick@anamatica.com) returns the discussion to a more technical level. "I spent 10 years building apps exclusively for the Microsoft platform using Microsoft tools (C and C++)," he explains. "Two years ago I changed jobs and I have since been working with Java/Corba and EJB. I like Java - but I think C# offers similar benefits. It has already been said in this discussion that the client is important - and let's face it, Swing is probably the weakest area of Java."

"But my real issue," Riordan goes on, "is the lack of proper tools for Java. If you have spent any time working with MS technologies you really appreciate the properly integrated, high performance, polished feel - it makes development a pleasure. Recently I moved across to Idea as my IDE in Java - it's the best Java IDE I've found so far (I really want to like Netbeans, but it just never seems to be finished and the performance sucks). Idea is about as good as Visual C++ 4.2 - that's a product that shipped 5 years ago."

"I want seamless end to end debugging (client - middle tier - SQL)," says Riordan. "I want high speed - and no performance degradation when running under the debugger. I want folding editors, proper dialog editing etc. etc. This is the point - you can be so much more productive under C# just because of the tools."

Is a "Religious" Following a Symptom of Decline?
So what does this whole passionate discussion of the future of Java mean? A very thought-provoking perspective comes from Mark Miller (mmille10@attbi.com), who sees what he claims are signs of an oft-repeated cycle of behavior.

"I've seen this happen too often in the technological world," he says, "and I've been in it since the early 1980s. It's like a pattern. A technology starts faltering, and the ways part. Some people use it until they feel its usefulness is exhausted and then move on to something else. The others form a cult-like following that is dead set against using any other technology aside from the one they love."

It is this cult-like behavior that Miller claims to discern in the current behavior of what he sees as Javaland's die-hards and in their reactions to the Alan Williamson editorial.

"They say things like, 'If only they would do X, then people would see how great it is and start using it,' … They don't look at integrating other useful technologies, because of course, theirs is so wonderful. They develop strong biases against outside technologies, in fact. They don't see their own technology's weaknesses. They don't want to see them."

This is hopelessly unrealistic, Miller believes. "The reality is that a tool is a tool. A language is a language. That's all they are. You are really fooling yourself if you ascribe religious significance to them, or an emotional attachment. It's not the end of the world if Java dies. Likewise the world is not saved if C# doesn't make it. It's like worrying without end whether Snap-On will "fight off" Craftsman tools, or something. If you did that out in public, people would look at you funny, because in the real scheme of things, it doesn't matter that much. In addition, religious fanaticism about a technology is not real attractive in the workplace, for good reason."

"Use tools for their usefulness to serve people," Miller advises. "The end user and people in management don't give a damn what language you use. Honest. What they care about is if you deliver something that works, fits the requirements, looks nice, is on time, and within budget. In the world of the Internet, people care about ease of use, reliability, and security."

Miller agrees with those who say Sun could be doing much more to secure the longevity of Java. "In order for a technology to thrive, it needs to be marketed, both to developers and business people," he says. "In short, the goal should not be to 'save Java,' but rather Sun, whom everyone identifies with Java, needs to be pragmatic and find out what people want out of a development environment, deliver it, and market the heck out of it."

If Sun doesn't do that, Miller argues, no 'community' effort is going to do much to 'save' it. "You'll only be delaying the inevitable," he contends, adding: "I know because I've been there. It takes leadership from the top if anything of substance is going to happen."

"Don't make this a religious or social movement," he concludes, "Make it a wake-up call to Sun that they need to fundamentally change the way they approach Java's development."

About Java News Desk
JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

I see a lot of complaints about client-side development, I can agree with some of the criticts here i.e that it's easier to build client/server type of applications with M$ tools.
But who wants to use client/server ? It's not portable, it doesn't scale, it's simply not an Enterprise class architecture. Yeah sure for building small departemental applications it's great to use VB.
When it comes to building thin clients I can't see any major difference in using ASP or JSP, besides the fact that the web/app.servers you can deploy your webapps on are much more robust on the java side. And when it comes to the important part in multi-tier system the server-side then you have plenty of great tools to use like JBuilder, TogetherSoft, WebGain etc.
It's actually quite easy; Internet type applications = Java, Multitier applications = Java, Portable applications = Java and pure clientside applications on Windows = VB (but not for long I heard some of the big shots like BEA have suprises ahead for us...)

I learned and wrote enough JAVA to realize it was a waste of time on the desktop, and went back to VC++. Like COREL and others who made much bigger JAVA bets, I realized that it SUCKs for desktop applications, Net enabled or otherwise. I would rather use JAVA then VB or C++, but I will not, because C++ (and VB) render a better product for most desktop, networking, or embedded applications.

If MSFT can create a JAVA clone that combines the best of VB, C++, and JAVA, AND lets me use DirectX and Intel MMX and SIMD performance primitives, I will definitely use it - why not? Who wouldn't like to lose the syntactical baggage of C++?




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