At last we can return to sanity. The speeches are over, the bunting is down, and the mad hysteria is at an end. After the chaos of JavaOne we can return to normal. I am of course paraphrasing that great literary character Edmund Blackadder. It has now been a month since I arrived home from our annual pilgrimage to JavaOne and I'm still following up on all the business cards that were thrust in my general direction.
JavaOne is a great opportunity to do some serious catching up and general networking, and it was a real treat as Blair Wyman and I took some time out to have a chat with James Gosling about what he's been up to lately. You can read what we spoke of elsewhere in this issue. It was interesting to talk with James concerning the overall direction of Java and discover how he feels about many of the issues. We touched on the old debate regarding Java being open-sourced and his response was so wonderfully practical that I can't help feeling that maybe he resents all the bickering and politics that divert attention from the underlying beauty that makes Java, well...Java.
The industry is still struggling to find its feet after the dot-bomb exploded, and desperately trying to stave off redundancies is the very company behind Java: Sun Microsystems. Although we probably shouldn't read too much into this (as Scott McNealy keeps telling us), the core business at Sun is still manufacturing and selling hardware, and the work Sun does with Java is still very much full steam ahead. That said, as you'll read from our chat, James does comment on the fact that "all the cool stuff with Java isn't done at Sun," so even if they are hitting a rocky patch in the road, Java isn't going to suffer much.
This was the month that Sun had their famous one-week nonpaid holiday - a move to save some pennies, which for an organization of Sun's size and payroll would account for quite a lot of pennies. But you can't help wondering how many of the engineers just went into work anyway.
Looking up the coast from Sun to another company's trials and tribulations, this month we saw that Microsoft was saved from the chopping block and has been allowed to stay together as a single operating unit. I can't really comment on whether this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing, but I'm getting a little paranoid regarding Microsoft's influence on the desktop market now that Windows XP is just around the corner. For example, have you been following the SmartTag debate? This is where Microsoft will put hyperlinks around special keywords it finds in all rendered HTML pages to link you to another site with more information.
For example, say your Web page happened to mention Sun Microsystems somewhere in the text. A small link made out of the text would - if you were to position your mouse over a pop-up - display more information and optionally take you to another siteŠall without the approval or knowledge of the original Web site producer. In principle it's a great idea, but one that is open to so much abuse. The upshot is that Microsoft has postponed this feature's appearance in IE for a little while longer, but rest assured it'll be there in some version, at some point.
That aside, what annoys me most about Microsoft's newest addition to its operating system suite is that there's still no embedded Java Virtual Machine. With Microsoft's strong relationships with the major PC manufacturers, Windows XP will find its way into the homes of millions of users who will simply never think of installing a JVM, let alone replacing the operating system. Due to the high-level politics and strategies of two companies, millions of users are affected, including a whole development community that won't be able to service this new user base.
We need to start moving Java applications into the mainstream and have sites chockful of executable JAR files that users simply 6and run without worrying about the requirements they face in the README.TXT file beforehand.
Maybe if we had this, Microsoft wouldn't seem half so bad.
Alan Williamson is editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal. In his spare time he holds the post of chief technical officer at n-ary (consulting) Ltd, one of the first companies in the UK to specialize in Java at the server side. Reach him at [email protected] (www.n-ary.com) and rumor has it he welcomes all suggestions and comments!