I know what you're thinking: What happened to Straight Talking? It's a good question, and most certainly deserves an answer. As seasoned JDJ readers know, Straight Talking was a regular column for over two years. But as much as I loved "talking" to you every month, the time has come to move on and introduce a whole new column/format.
As you know, I have the honor of sitting on the editorial board of JDJ with the title of "Industry News Editor." So what does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, I get to hear about all the juicy things going on in the industry a wee bit before the masses are informed. My inbox regularly fills up with press releases, announcements and must-reads from companies all over the globe. Most of it I merely filtered and passed on down the chain to other JDJ departments.
Many of the news items aren't that specific to Java but to the industry as a whole, and although this is a Java magazine, I felt that some of this information might be of interest to you. So with that in mind, I made the tough decision to step back from JDJ for a month or two, refocus my writing efforts and present the first in a new column devoted to filtering through the news stories and presenting you with an overview of what's been happening in the world.
Our more educated readers will have twigged that JDJ is a monthly publication and having a monthly news report just isn't going to be that cutting edge. To that end, we've built a complete Web site to accompany this column. On it you'll find the latest press releases complete with a weekly summary of the goings-on. The site will serve as a conduit of all things Java related, collating views on all aspects of our industry. But we need your help.
The Web site needs your input. It's not a static bunch of HTML pages but a dynamic, content-rich experience, and we want your reviews and your articles. We aim to raise the standard on community-driven Web sites. So work with us to build something rather exciting.
Keith and I have been working hard, practicing and perfecting our radio show. We've finally prepared the necessary infrastructure to broadcast to you on a daily basis (we also want to hear from budding radio DJs interested in hosting their own shows). So Industry Watch is coming at you not only in electronic and print form, but in audio format.
Industry Watch will be a monthly review/summary of what's been going on in the world at large. I suspect the overall formula will need a little tweaking and changing as we gather more feedback, so work with us in the early days and we'll soon have a well-oiled machine.
dot-com Fever Breaks
It's fair to say that everyone reading this magazine has an interest in Java in some shape or form. Furthermore, it's probably not going out on a limb to say that the majority of you are involved in the Internet either in B2B or B2C activities. Now, in the middle of the third quarter, many companies have released their second quarter earnings, and for the dot-coms of the world it makes pretty sorry reading.
Here in Europe we've seen the demise of two high-profile e-tailers: boo.com and clickmango.com. Both ran out of money and couldn't raise the necessary funds to keep them going until they hit more profitable times. Of the two, I found the story behind boo.com to be the most interesting. Apparently, one of the reasons for its failure to pick up the necessary user base was that the technology employed at its Web site was too cutting edge: only those with a high bandwidth connection were able to utilize the site properly.
It's interesting to see that while we all strive to use the latest and greatest tools, sometimes it doesn't pay to be on the bleeding edge. Solutions have to be delivered that will allow the widest user base to utilize them. The notion of faster bandwidth has been promised for many years now, but the majority of users are still surfing the Net with their dial-up analog modems. They're trying not to get too impatient waiting for that huge JPEG image to download, which will do nothing to enhance the experience except to make them wary of clicking on the next link to drive them deeper into the site.
I've read many reports and press releases claiming B2C is dead and long live B2B. I can safely say that the majority of them that have come from the application server vendors have played on their B2B features as opposed to their wider appeal. So what's happening to the poor old consumers? Are they going to be left behind?
I hope not, although it would appear that making profits in this area is increasingly difficult. Intel and SAP recently announced they were giving up the ghost and shutting down their operations as they couldn't see a path to profit. Amazon, no stranger to losses, announced they had lost $115.7M in the last quarter - which wasn't as bad as the first quarter, which recorded a loss of $121M. Even Barnes and Noble, a traditional "bricks and mortar" company, posted losses of $45.4M for the last quarter for its online operation.
So just who is making money in the B2C world? Well, it appear that companies that aren't warehousing any stock aren't doing too badly. eBay posted profits of $11.6M, but Expedia recorded a $42.2M loss. It just doesn't make sense.
I recently spoke to a VC company about all of this. They said that a year ago many of the original investors were quite happy to wait the two to four years for market share and realization of profits. But with all the bad press, some are beginning to get a little itchy and impatient, and fail to come up with the once promised second and third rounds of funding.
That said, the B2B world is doing just fine and dandy. Sun posted record earnings: $5 billion in revenue for just one quarter, totaling more than $15 billion at year's end. So if anyone ever asks if Sun is making money out of Java, I think you can take the answer as Yes. The application server market is very buoyant, with Sun's iPlant securing over $1 billion in revenues alone. Not bad for a company that's primarily a box shifter.
Looking at all the trade journals and financial papers, it appears that those making money out of the Internet are those that are tooling up the rest of the industry. The dot-coms that have invested heavily in these tools appear to be taking the beating, fighting vigorously in the B2C marketplace, trying to stay ahead before the grim reaper (the CFO) comes a'knocking.
For us Java developers it would seem on the face of it that that book on EJBs might not seem such an extravagant purchase after all. As an entrepreneur, I don't know what it signals. Reading through the posts of the UK's premier forum for start-ups, First Tuesday (www.firsttuesday.com), it seems that investors have gone cold on the B2C ideas, and are looking to take the safer route of B2B instead.
I wonder how the industry will look in 12 months' time. What technologies should we all be looking to invest our skill and energy in, to stay ahead of the competition? Investing in Java alone is no longer sufficient - we have to narrow our focus even further.
Speaking of Java, I noted that Kim Polese, the "mother of Java," has stepped down from the CEO post at Marimba to take on a less prominent role as chair and CSO. Now there's a company we don't hear much from. Marimba didn't fare well when push technology suddenly went out of vogue. But with a repositioning, they adapted their technology to manage corporate software on open networks. An astute move now that they recently posted their first-ever earnings, with a $1.3M profit. I tip my hat to Ms. Polese for not allowing her ego to get in the way of her company's growth. A rare thing for a founder to voluntarily step down and allow someone else to run her baby. I can't image Larry Ellison or Scott McNealy doing the same.
As this column was being prepared, Microsoft featured heavily in many areas of news. If they aren't being investigated by yet another government for alleged market dominance, they seem to be still moving forward, announcing new alliances and products. The recent U.S. court case doesn't seem to have slowed down their business in the slightest. One even gets the feeling they're cashing in on all the free publicity.
Next month I'll review what's been happening on the C# front, Microsoft's recently announced new language that officially has nothing to do with Java. Yeah, sure!
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Alan Williamson is CEO of the first pure Java company in the UK, n-ary (consulting) Ltd (www.n-ary.com), a Java
solutions company specializing in delivering real-world
applications with real-world Java. Alan has authored two Java Servlet books and contributed to the Servlet API.