This past June, the crew and I spent a week in one of the best cities in the
world. New York City played host to SYS-CON's Web Services Edge Conference & Expo, where all the major players in the Web services market come under one roof to talk and debate the emergence of this new wave of technology. It was good to catch up with people and I thoroughly enjoyed grabbing some quality
face-to-face time with a number of authors, including Joey Gibson and Rick
Hightower, to name but a few. Their insight into the current trends and
technologies was most enlightening, and, hopefully, I'll be able to snaffle
a guest editorial from them at some point.
This is the real reason to go to these types of shows: the people,
listening to what they have to say and learning what projects are currently
on the go. It seems that opinion on the whole Web services revolution is
still divided. I had the dual pleasure of chairing the "Supercharging Web
Services with Java" panel and sitting in on the "J2EE vs .NET" panel. For
example, when Simon Phipps (Sun's chief technology evangelist) was asked to
comment on the Web services movement for the last 12 months, the first thing
he did was clarify his definition of Web services. Personally, I think this
was more to clarify Sun's position and differentiate themselves from
Microsoft's view of Web services.
My most startling observation was that .NET managed to creep into every
conversation, with everyone offering their take on the whole good versus
evil war. Rick Ross, never one to shy away from controversy, stirred the pot
a bit by claiming that Microsoft had the greatest virus ever built: the
Windows Update. It's used to ship service packs and patches to desktops;
competing with that is going to prove difficult. He's right. Have you
updated your Windows recently? Notice the .NET Framework is now listed as
one of the options you can install. This will definitely move the
penetration of .NET somewhat.
Let's be completely honest here: Microsoft isn't going away. No matter what we say regarding their skullduggery tactics, .NET is here and we'll have to learn to work with it, not against it. Our greatest downfall as a Java community would be to ignore it. If
we're going to win this game, we have to weigh up our opponent properly, and
take them on full tilt, as opposed to standing on the sidelines shouting
To a large degree we've lost the battle on the desktop, or at least the
Microsoft Windows desktop. In fact, it's arguable whether we were ever in
the running. Swing has done us no favors whatsoever, and while the work
Apple has done to make Swing run like lightning is fantastic, it's a little
late coming to the party. We needed that performance a number of years ago.
This was a hotly debated subject on the panels, with even the likes of Ross
and Phipps conceding that this race has been largely lost.
However, before you go shelving your Java books, it's important to
remember where the majority of the Java development is happening and why.
The server side is where Java has a very strong foothold, and one that I
don't see being displaced no matter how many marketing dollars Microsoft
spends with their 1" of separation campaign. Just not going to happen. Java
has proved itself time and time again as the only scalable, portable,
cost-effective solution available. Take this power and also transport it to
the mobile space, and you'll discover another revolution taking place that
will have Java firmly placed to lord over this arena.
A lot of industry pundits are already writing Java's eulogy, proclaiming
Microsoft the winner. It angers me to read such blasphemous articles from
respected sources. Java is far from dead: on the contrary, only now is Java
coming fully alive. In my view, you ain't seen nothing yet.
Alan Williamson is editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal. During the
day 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. Rumor has it he welcomes all suggestions and comments.