An Up and Down Week for JAVA

...and, I'm not talking about the language. I'm talking about the stock, Sun Microsystems is down 20% in the futures market @ 8:10 AM ET. -20% On the news of the $7 billion game of brinksmanship, it is important to call this deal what it is: a bailout. Sun has been shopping itself around for some time, and, in the absence of a buyer they are likely going to have to make even more drastic changes than were already planned.

I will admit to being a single-issue voter. I care about Sun inasmuch as I care about the health and viability of Java. Sun has mismanaged what should have been an easy transition for Java from the proprietary monstrosity it was in 2004 to an "open source" Java. We've ended up with a GPL-only approach to Java governed by an "open" JCP held hostage by Sun's refusal to grant a suitable TCK license for a non-GPL implementation. They are protecting whatever revenue streams they have by playing games with the TCK license in a way that is holding the platform back. If Sun Microsystems had made a different decision with respect to Harmony in 2004 and 2005 I'm convinced they'd be in a different position today. My hope is that IBM will complete the deal and get out of the way of a truly open approach to Java (i.e. we'll be able to see a certified Java implementation under a BSD-style license).

Instead, we see a language on hold. Sun doesn't have the resources (or the internal focus) to develop Java. Instead they've expended resources on JavaFX in a desperate attempt to get into the RIA business... The sheer unreality of the Sun Microsystems PR machine when it comes to products like JavaFX continues unabated. A product, which by all rational accounts, is a complete and utter shell game. Ask around, do you know anyone planning a large deployment of JavaFX? I don't. Schwartz didn't help his credibility when he blogged about 100 million downloads of JavaFX earlier this year. (Please show us the source for these numbers, I don't see this reflected in reality. I know many developers, none have downloaded JavaFX, none are planning to develop with it.)

I predict a rocky week for JAVA the stock, and an interesting week for Java the language. IBM will come back to the negotiating table after JAVA drops further, and this will be a stressful week for the thousands of capable and dedicated engineers employed by Sun Microsystems.


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4 Comments

I think he referred to java downloads starting from update 10 - that contains the javafx runtime. In the meantime I understand your point.

I personally do not agree that IBM will be the right fit to carry on the Java Platform, and this is from a developer perspective. IBM is a company that focus selling their stuff to the CEOs; they don't make products so that developers can do their job better. Sun might have not handle the open sourcing of Java the best way, however look at all the other great things which they have brought to the Java world, for example NetBeans, and Glassfish I will take those products any day when compare to Websphere, RAD7, or even Eclipse. Don't forget about OpenOffice, and J2ME, do you think IBM will continue to focus their effort on these products? IBM is a enterprise base company and will never give the same kind of attention to desktop or mobile products that Sun has. I still think Sun is the best company to carry on the Java legacy, they have made Java available everywhere. They have the right spirit, they just don't have the right marketing/sales strategy.

Totally agree with Neko.

IBM don't make products so that developers can do their job better? What about Eclipse, which they established by open sourcing their development tools. What about their commercial Rational Rose tools for developers? You might not like these applications (I have used Eclipse since before it was Eclipse), but they are clearly compelling for a respectable chunk of developers.

And IBM does have a stake in OpenOffice: it re-uses the core engine in an Eclipse RCP as 'Lotus Symphony' and suddenly been very active in ODF a couple of years ago to now.

For mobiles there isn't the culture at IBM AFAIK, but perhaps that is a good thing, because there is no internal competition. What might find internal competition is NetBeans; and presumably SWT might become formalized into the JSE in some fashion.

Where IBM and Sun are the same is their interest in back-end systems, and relative disinterest in the desktop or the front-end. The browser and the cross-platform RPC are, in effect, the limits of their ambitions and strategies for reclaiming the desktop: steal Microsoft's app territory by a cheap war of attrition and leave the high-end Adobe-style apps to the specialist companies.

So I don't see IBM as being particularly better for us Java desktop application developers, but certainly no worse. Sun comprehensively failed to harness the incredible external energy and goodwill. of Java developers in the current decade. Sun kept its software too close but opened up its hardware to some extent, while IBM keeps it hardware (mainframe monopoly) close but has opened up software to some extent.

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