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Microsoft's $200,000,000 budget for .NET marketing requires immediate remedial action by everyone in Javaland, Rick Ross insists

He has said it before. He will doubtless say it again. JavaLobby founder Rick Ross is 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. "Make no mistake," says Ross in a newsletter to JavaLobby members, "this massive campaign is aimed at persuading your peers and managers to choose .NET instead of Java. It's 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've established a track record of being willing to play dirty."

JDJ 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 6-8 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, the .NET Framework is arguably on course to become pervasive over the next few years, and it's Ross's view that Internet technology professionals everywhere will need to know the respective strengths of both platforms in order to advise clients objectively on 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? To add your comments, go to www.sys-con.com/java/articlenews.cfm?id=1333.

JDJ Feedback Special Report
by Jeremy Geelan

Java and .NET Now Competing Head-to-Head for the Hearts and Minds of Enterprise Developers. "Large corporations should shy away from .NET" say some; "Why shouldn't developers trust .NET in the enterprise?" ask others.

>JavaLobby founder Rick Ross's cry to Java developers everywhere - "We can't let Java go the way of WordPerfect!" - clearly struck a note with those developers worldwide who share his concern at the impact .NET will or won't have on the continued success of Java in the future, now that Microsoft Corp has begun to spend the massive $200,000,000 budget it has allocated to the marketing of its new framework.

Thoughtful and considered responses to Ross's call to action have been coming to us from developers far and wide. Some are critical not so much of Microsoft as of Sun Microsystems itself, who many feel may be getting its tactics completely wrong.

>"If only Sun would loosen its grip on Java standards and certify open source application servers like JBoss," comments Sam Johnston from New South Wales in Australia, "then perhaps we could compete, but so long as we're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for app and database servers before we even start developing anything, how are we ever meant to get anywhere? A single Enterprise IDE license alone absorbs a large chunk of smaller projects' budgets."

>B.J. Schreib feels the same way. "Open it!" he exclaims. "If Java is ever going to have a chance in hell of killing .NET, then Sun has to open up Java. ...by doing so, Sun stands to gain more credibility in the developer community and, as we've seen with Linux, allows (but does not assure) the creation of a developer base that can potentially eclipse the speed at which the dinosaur in Redmond can move."

>Jonathan Ginter agrees. "If Sun is going to withstand this attack," he says, "perhaps its best strategy would be to finally submit Java as an open source project under strict licensing. I feel that this would merely extend the Java Community Process concept that's already in place. Moreover, it would cripple Microsoft's ability to make an issue of Sun's ownership of Java and strengthen the Java community's claims of vendor lock-in for C#."

"If Sun feels that this would be too much of a free-for-all with little or no quality control," he continues, "then how about finding a way to create joint ownership of the Java standard: a collective approach that could include Sun, IBM, HP, etc?"

>Scott Smith can't understand what all the fuss is about. "Why so paranoid?" he asks. "I don't understand the war mentality. Competition is good. I develop exclusively in Java at this time, but three years ago I was a C++ programmer. Three years from now I may be writing exclusively in C#. I'll go where the market demands."

But even Smith thinks opening up Java might help in resisting .NET. "If Sun is so arrogant and short-sighted as to get greedy with Java, they will lose. Sun should make Java open and give open source efforts, like JBoss, certification. The likes of BEA will have to suffer for Java to survive. It's a hard choice, but that's what it comes down to. The least greedy will survive. And, unfortunately, Microsoft can afford to be very ‘altruistic' in the short term in order to ensure long-term success." (Java developer Doug Harris loves the idea of Microsoft being altruistic. "Is this like a Scout helping a lady across the street, because it's darker and easier to rob her on the other side?" he asks.)

>Mike Wong is more, shall we say, open-minded. Commenting from the Philippines, he says: "Microsoft's strengths lie in the marketing, tech support, and continuous improvement of the products it sells (or bundles). Although I really appreciated and admired the way Java architects created Java, it must...compete. You can't just rely on the beauty of the language in order to rise above the [.NET] challenge."

>Finally, and this remains the alpha and omega of Java's continuing success perhaps, Michael Dean reminds us all of Java's tried and true strength, based on his 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's portability! Where have we ever seen that from MS?"

>Amen. And definitely not, we hope, RIP!

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