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Joe here again, moonlighting as the Man-on-the-Street reporter for Java Developer's Journal. Things are winding down at the day job. My staff is quitting so fast, they are leaving skid marks in the parking lot.

Me? I'm spending a lot of time at trade shows and those industry events that are of little value when you have real work to do, but are fun when you don't. Funny thing is that all of the events seem to feature the same two speakers professing Java and saying nasty things about Microsoft. I guess Larry Ellison of Oracle and Scott McNealy of Sun are trying to make it as stand-up comedians. I have heard all of their jokes about the twelve ways that Microsoft Word can underline a misspelling. Larry and Scott speak without notes, wander around the stage in circles and say the same things about Bill Gates and Java over and over. Reminds me of Rodney Dangerfield in his heyday. He told the same jokes every time you saw him on TV. The difference was that Rodney was funny. Larry and Scott? They are just boring.

By their actions, the Prophets of Java are sending a different message now:

Java is DEAD.

WHAT? DEAD? Well Java the LANGUAGE is alive and doing quite well, thank you. The programming tools continue to sell; books and magazines, such as Java Developer's Journal, are in a bull market. But Java the ENVIRONMENT is on life support. Virtually no one has made a profitable business with Java, the ENVIRONMENT. No profit, a doomed future.

Java, the LANGUAGE, has found a niche as Esperanto in the multi-standard client/server world. The ability to embed Java applets in a Web page has and will continue to create new opportunities for the browser vendors. The tool vendors, such as the vilified Microsoft, will also do well with Java products.

But in so far as the Network Computers (NCs), set-top boxes, PDAs or Mood Rings, Java is near death. Larry and Scott are wrong. Bill Gates and Windows are winning...again.

NCs are running server-based Windows apps, not Java applets. PDAs are running lean and mean OS's or Windows CE, not JavaOS. Heart pacemakers and Boeing 757s are running ultra-reliable Real-Time Operating Systems (RTOS's) like pSOS. Users of the much-hyped JavaOS, pJava and eJava are nowhere to be found, except in the fuzzy world of press releases.

Can Java, the ENVIRONMENT be saved? Should it be saved? Here is Joe's humble advice to Sun on what needs to be done to extend the success of Java, the LANGUAGE, into new areas.

  1. Forget about writing operating systems for Java. Let Microsoft, IBM and the RTOS vendors do that. JavaOS has gone into the Roach Motel of software, SunSoft, and will never come out. Let it die.

  2. Continue to support the JavaVM on all OS's, but with cheaper licensing models and more reasonable support fees. This will stop the Java clones from fragmenting the market. RTOS vendors cannot economically justify the Java licensing fees and may be forced to go with Java clones if their customers need an embedded Java solution. Fragmented markets make confused developers. Confused developers will stay with Windows and not take risks with Java on any other OS's.

  3. Get someone, anyone, to write a decent, simple, Java-based office suite. This is the area where Microsoft is most vulnerable. The new Microsoft Office 97 is horrible to install and use but it is the only game in town. Use MacWrite as the reference for the word processor. This suite will encourage the use of NCs with the JavaVM on whatever OS is appropriate. Microsoft may get the OS part of the sale, but Sun and others will get the rest of it.

  4. Have a consistent Java message. Sun divisions are not in sync, especially JavaSoft and Sun Microelectronics (picoJava chips). If Sun isn't clear about Java, then who will be? Where are your marketing people hiding? This is Product Marketing 101 level stuff.
So, almost two years after its introduction, Java is a great programming language and nothing more. If Java is to move beyond the world of COBOL, Basic and APL, Sun needs to move fast. Moving fast is not what Sun has been able to do.

What about old Joe? I continue to go to these industry events, eat rubber chicken and mystery meat for lunch and ponder the fate of Java.

About The Author
Joe S. Valley is a scarred veteran of the Silicon Valley wars. It was either writing this column or heading back into therapy. His company can't afford mental health care coverage anymore, so writing is the only option. There are a million stories in the Valley and Joe knows lots of them. Got a good story? E-mail him at [email protected]


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