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JDJ Interview: Arthur Van Hoff

JDJ Interview: Arthur Van Hoff

The Java Developer's Journal recently had the opportunity to interview Arthur van Hoff, formerly with the Java development team at Sun, to find out what he thinks about Java security, Java business opportunities, and the role of Java in the industry. Jeff Schneider conducted the interview for JDJ and here is his report.

JDJ: Are you surprised by the huge initial success that Java has had?
AVH: Not really. It is great technology, and it comes at a great time. The success is definitely fueled by two factors. The first is the rise of the Internet, the second factor is the fact that C++ programmers are starting to realize that C++ is too complicated and that they need something simpler.

JDJ: Do you feel that the current version of the product is stable enough for the development community to embrace?
AVH: I think it is stable enough. But like most 1.0 products, it needs more work. The 1.1 release is what I'm waiting for. You should also realize that Java is already five years old. It has undergone major changes, but the core language is very stable. Most of the current problems are caused by porting bugs.

JDJ: People commonly refer to Microsoft's Visual Basic Script plus the OCX technology as the Java Killer. Will this be a threat to the life of Java or do you see the products working in a complementary fashion?
AVH: OCX technology is inherently unsafe. Even if you encrypt a 486 OCX binary you still have to base the security on trust. Do you trust Microsoft? Also, one licensed Microsoft developer can take the entire Net down if a virus contained in an encrypted OCX gets loose. With Java this can't happen because it doesn't rely on encryption. It simply doesn't trust any code coming from the network.

JDJ: What do you see as the biggest obstacles facing Java in the near future?
AVH: Bugs need to get fixed, the API's need to get flushed out, and Sun needs to make sure that all licensees implement the same libraries with the same semantics.

JDJ: Tell us about "Yet Another Java Start Up"; but first, how did you come up with the name?
AVH: That is not the name. It was misreported in the press. We are in the process of clearing our real name through a trade mark search.

JDJ: Does the company have any intention of going public (we saw what happened to Netscape)?
AVH: I believe every successful startup will eventually go public.

JDJ: Why did you decide to leave the Java development team at Sun?
AVH: The opportunities for Java outside Sun were simply too tempting. This is a once in a lifetime chance and we decided not to miss it.

JDJ: Were you surprised to hear that Microsoft decided to license Java?
AVH: No. Microsoft wants to be a major player in the Internet market and they realize that Java has become a integral part.

JDJ: Corporations have invested millions of dollars in training and developing client/server applications in tools such as Visual Basic and PowerBuilder. Now Java comes along and IS managers are seeing opportunities to deliver applications to their customers and business partners via the Web. Has Java turned their internal client/server applications into legacy systems?
AVH: In essence yes. The problem is that the legacy systems are inherently incapable of dealing with the Internet because of the security issues. Internet software must be written in a secure language like Java.

JDJ: Can we ever expect full-blown applications such as word processors and spreadsheets to be written using the Java language that will compete with the precompiled versions currently available?
AVH: Absolutely. In a few years Java will be faster than compiled C and C++. Plus, there are so many other advantages of using Java, like portability, robustness, extendability, etc...

JDJ: Companies are very concerned about security on the Internet. Does Java help in delivering a more secure environment?
AVH: Yes. That is the main objective of Java. It is the one feature that no other language/environment has been able to deliver.

JDJ: Most people think of Java as a way to deliver applications via the Internet, but it can also be executed through a run time interpreter. Do you anticipate the use of Java to create non-Internet applications?
AVH: Yes. Java is just a better C++. It will be used just like C++ in every aspect.

More Stories By Jeff Schneider

Jeff Schneider is founder and CEO of MomentumSI, a consulting firm that specializes in transforming organizations into a service-oriented enterprise.

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