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What Do the Sun Microsystems Job Cuts Mean for Java?

What Do the Sun Microsystems Job Cuts Mean for Java?

Sun Cutting 11% of Work Force - Is Java in Trouble?

At the end of last week, Sun Microsystems reported its first quarter results, and announced dramatic workforce and facilities reductions.

Commenting exclusively to JDJ Industry Newsletter, Alan Williamson, editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal, avers that there is nothing ominous for Java in last week's news.

"Sun, at its heart, is a hardware company, competing in a very tight and competitive market," Williamson says."Scott McNealy is making the transition to a software company, encompassing the Linux OS and their SunONE product lines. I don't think these cuts signal anything in particular for the Java community. Hardware sales are dropping, so it's inevitable that some roles will no longer be required."

Judging from the response to our "Breaking News" item on this last Friday, Java developers around the world are keener than ever to share with each another their thoughts, hopes, and fears for what Alan Williamson always calls "the beautiful language that is Java."

Not everyone in Javaland agrees with Williamson that the cuts are not relevant to Java itself, though many agree with his view that such cuts are just part and parcel of the ebb and flow of capitalism and have little or nothing to do with the well-being of Java.

".NET Will Rise Above Java..."

Here is a selection of some of the best of the comments received by JDJ Industry Newsletter. "Java is indeed in trouble," asserts Bruce Brodinsky [email protected], adding somewhat gloomily, "Sun's coming demise will mean a significant decline in Java interest. Its day is over." What does Brodinsky envisage taking its place? You guessed it: .NET.

".NET will rise above Java, and deservedly so," Brodinsky contends. "Much as we dislike the Microsoft monopoly, it turns out better, more stable products when it is pushed to do so. Java has accomplished that, pushed Microsoft to do better. But, Java's days are numbered, as are Sun's."

"Java Will Be Fine..."

Eric Evans [email protected] disagrees. "Java will be fine," he says. "The Java language has grown beyond a Sun product at this point. If Sun went under, IBM and others would continue to provide tools. It would continue to be the lingua franca for object-oriented development."

Ethan Rider [email protected], a Sun employee, echoes Evans's optimism. "Speaking as a private citizen, and not as a Sun employee," he says, "I don't think that this will have a significant impact on Java as a programming language."

"Sure, a reduction in staff may translate into some projects either slowing or being cancelled altogether, but Java as a whole will remain largely unscathed. Even if no further work were done to expand the development tools that are out there (JVMs J2SDK, IDEs etc.)...there would remain a large and quite skilled developer community making progress on and with Java technology."

"Furthermore," Rider observes, "I can't imagine Sun abandoning such a community after investing such substantial amounts of money, time, and energy fostering it."

"Too Many Players for Java to be Affected"

Kevin Duffey [email protected] makes the point in a slightly different way. "With so many people moving to J2EE, and every major company except one involved with Java, most with pretty powerful solutions, not to mention the numerous smaller ones (Jetty, JBoss, Orion, Resin, Pramati, JRun and so on), millions of developers and probably billions of lines of code written, I can't imagine Java will be going away in the next decade or two even if Sun folds."

Duffey continues, "With so many big companies involved, I am willing to bet a lot that Sun would open-source the Java platform and language if they were to go under. There are already many trying to get Sun to move in that direction anyway."

"As many have said," Duffey concludes, "there is WAY too much momentum for anything, including MS and all its might or even Sun folding, for Java to disappear."

"Sun Should Release Java as Open Standard"

Allen Chee [email protected] reinforces this suggestion: "If ever Sun goes down, for whatever reason, the best contribution Sun can give to the Java community is to release Java as Open Source. In this way, Java won't be constrained will all the legalism that comes with Sun protecting this 'intellectual property.'"

And Joe Lee [email protected] says the same: "Yes I agree, releasing Java as Open Source community will further enhance Java faster than Sun can. For example, Open Office 1.0.1 has shown big improvement since Sun released Star Office code, and I believe it won't be long before it catches up with MS Office."

Mark Ashworth [email protected] adduces not StarOffice but JBoss. "I appreciate what Sun has given the open source community and the Java community," he says, " and I wish them the very best. The most successful Java projects right now seem to be the ones that have gone open source like Tomcat and JBoss. It may be time for Sun to become a contributor to Java rather than the prime controller. Apache.org might be a good candidate."

"Get a New CEO"

Donald Hsu [email protected] provides a practical suggestion that no one else seems to have thought of. "Get a new CEO," he urges Sun, "McNealy is good but time has changed."

"Sun gets most of its revenue from Solaris UNIX servers, not from software," Hsu explains. "To start a service business, you need to grab a senior VP from Oracle, IBM, McKinsey or one of the Big Four accounting firms. Sun needs new leadership otherwise it will go down futher."

Mind you, Hsu is more optimistic about Java himself than he is about McNealy. "As far as Java is concerned, it will not die. Just like COBOL, it remains to be developed and maintained in all enterprises." Nonetheless, Hsu warns, "In 2003, 10% of the developer work in all firms will be on C#."

"Hey hey, my my, Java code will never die..."

Be that as it may, according to Michelle Chambliss [email protected], "Java isn't going anywhere. There is nothing else like it except for the copycats, like C#, which isn't platform independent, and Python (very cool but not catching on too quickly), JPython, Jython, etc."

" If Java wasn't so great," Chambliss pointedly asks, "why would all of the newest languages be so eerily similar?"

"I'm sure Java isn't the end of the line for programming languages," she concludes, adding that on the conrary she feels it is "the BEGINNING of a new era in software development, and that means it's going to be around for quite a while. "

Tom Eller [email protected] agrees. "Java's not dying," says Eller. "Have you tried the Eclipse IDE (with JDT)? It's open source, fairly easy to tailor to your needs, and has lots of nice bells and whistles for working on Java code."

What do you think? Respond here.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Brian Danylkiw 10/23/02 02:02:00 PM EDT

Currently both java and .net have (very large) corporations behind them. That gives many businesses a high level of comfort regarding consistency, support and credibility. Before anyone begins to try beat me into submission regarding the arguements regarding the merits of open source vs. current model, please remember that I happen to agree with the argument that open source is probably the way to go, however the issues of corporate credibility are huge. Besides, what incentive will remain for Sun to stick with java if it no longer has control. Remember that Sun also hosts the Java Community Process and ensures that when a new release of java appears, it will work on *ALL* available platforms, not just the popular ones (ie Wintel and Linux-x86). If perhaps someone could propose an limited open-source partnership with Sun, we might have the best of both worlds.

Brian Danylkiw 10/23/02 01:51:00 PM EDT
Rudi Streif 10/23/02 11:42:00 AM EDT

Bruce Brodinsky's statement is based on the assumption that it needs a strong organization behind a technology to be successful. While this definitely helps it is not true or as simple.

Good examples are Linux that does not have a strong single organization behind it and is very successful and OS/2 that failed despite IBM being a very powerful organization.

For a technology to be successful it mainly requires adoption by engineers, people and organizations who are using it. For a technology to be worth to be adopted it needs to add value to what folks are doing. Java definitely does add value and so will .NET. But it is dependend on what you are doing: multi-platform go Java, Windows only go .NET.

Microsoft will likely never deliver on the multi-platform capability of .NET. Why should they? It's very hard to maintain compatibility over multiple platforms. They know that and that's why they abandoned the multi-platform capability of Windows NT only a few year after NT came to the market. Remember, NT was praised to be the platform spanning relief to the OS diversity in the early 90s?

Michael Bushe 10/22/02 09:06:00 PM EDT

I'm fed up with JDJ and Editor Alan Williamson fixating on .Net, it's a flippin' JAVA mag goshdarnit! Every month it's .Net this, .Net that. They've lost sight of Java's dominance and power. Alan's so caught up in .Net he has no business being JDJ editor anymore, he should put his job where his fear is and move to .Net Journal.

Notice how this all came about after M$ invited Alan for a weekend in Redmond to talk about .Net? Since then EVERY month it's "The Java sky is falling!" Musta been some set of slides. I wonder what they put in his pizza. Meanwhile, I'm still looking for a .Net deployment.

Java is an ENOURMOUS industry with a huge base of companies, apps, tools, developers, servers, phones, and lots of other whatnot involved. Think about all the APIs in Java, then think about the hundreds of JSRs that will grow it further. M$ has a LONG way to go to even get close. They've got lots of money to throw at it, but it's going to take a LONG time and won't displace Java.

JDJ is one fat advertisement anyway, I'm letting my subscription die and spending more time with the more development-oriented and Java-oriented mags.

Michael Bushe

Chris 10/22/02 06:36:00 PM EDT

Java, like Linux, will benefit from its open source nature and roots. Its benefits in ecomonics and flexibility are inherent - relative to alternatives in the marketplace today. A new solution or technology might change the fundamentals. But, for now Java complements (yes, complements) Microsoft and .Net. Java provides architectural and code diversity that adds to the portfolio of options available in the marketplace. It will continue for the future forseeable. Credit should be given to the founders of Java for having the vision to make it open source.

NetInterests, Inc.

P.S.: even if Sun cut its Java investment to $0 its lifeline would continue. Those who doubt should consider all of the lines of legacy Fortran (yes Fortran), Cobol and other code in use today in the commercial and government sector.... (SMILE)

Richard Markle 10/22/02 02:06:00 PM EDT

I think it is clear that Java is only thing keeping Sun afloat. Linux has eaten Solaris' lunch as far as Internet Enterprises go. The Linux/OpenSource movement has made UNIX obsolete in all but most extreme circumstances. If Sun is wise they will move towards a more software-based model and work to expand Java's reach in the enterprise (and other places, like wireless).

Gbenga Abimbola 10/22/02 10:20:00 AM EDT

No, Sun should not buy BEA/Borland. I wish Borland has enough money to buy Sun. Sun needs a new CEO instead of running to court everyday.

C# will not necessarily displace Java, but be rest asured that, it will compete fiercely with it. As for me, my choices are: Delphi & C#. Why C#? It resemles Delphi in many of its implementation. Besides, who wants to just stay on one programming language. These days, you had be a Jack of all trades and master of most. Period.

Gbenga Abimbola 10/22/02 10:20:00 AM EDT

No, Sun should not buy BEA/Borland. I wish Borland has enough money to buy Sun. Sun needs a new CEO instead of running to court everyday.

C# will not necessarily displace Java, but be rest asured that, it will compete fiercely with it. As for me, my choices are: Delphi & C#. Why C#? It resemles Delphi in many of its implementation. Besides, who wants to just stay on one programming language. These days, you had be a Jack of all trades and master of most. Period.

Jason 10/22/02 09:55:00 AM EDT

As much as anything this is the realization of poor financial management by Scott McNealy. Is Sun a hardware company or a software company - or both? I would argue that their relevance in both arenas is diminishing, and the board should oust the whining McNealy and spend some time determining what their core competencies are so as to give Sun and its employees some hope of being around in 5 years time.

I would also suggest that the clock is ticking for Oracle...

Xue-Feng Yang 10/22/02 09:42:00 AM EDT

If you look at the war on windows between MS and Apple and the war on text editors, Words and WordPerfect, then you know the result. In particular, Intel's server CPU will help MS to reach its target.

Apple and WordPerfect are still there, but both are losers.

MS has much more resource than Sun. MS has much more experience on the user friendly software development. Although Sun has good idea on Java, it moves too slow.

And much more ....

Ross Rannells 10/22/02 09:21:00 AM EDT

Java was an afterthought to Sun. Something to give it a foothold in the appliance market. Something to give its servers to talk too. A tool to allow its servers to talk to your refrigerator or dishwasher. It was created so Sun could sell more servers.
With the handheld device market ready to explode and Java being the only language on all of them, even those running MS OS's, and with a predicted market size of over half a billion. Java is in no danger of disappearing. There are simply too many big companies who have a vested interest in its continuation. It the linch pin of the biggest market the computer industry has ever seen. Whatever happens to Sun, Java will continue either under the control of a standards body or as open source code.

Darrell Fuller 10/22/02 08:59:00 AM EDT

MS "evolution" to .NET is just that. A natural migration from older technologies to newer ones. Nothing eye-popping. When it comes to innovation MS has always followed rather than lead. .NET is no different.

.NET will do nothing more then tighten the development of VS.NET users. Finally you have truly cross compatible objects within the same IDE/Product Suite.

When it comes to native, windows applications nothing beats MS's Visual Studio. But native client apps will always challenge Java on "that" platform.

But on the server side and distributed architectures, MS can't/won't drive out java. Why, because MS is still playing catch up and they only target the Windows OS.

At least for the next 7-10 years, Enterprises will still target Unix/Linux based platforms for stability and performance. And Java is still tops in this area.

Mike 10/22/02 05:42:00 AM EDT

I think it's time for a change. Clearly, there has to be a better Java Magazine than this. A magazine that feeds on controversy, with a few good articles here and there. I think I can pass on the few good articles and try somewhere else.

Michele Costabile 10/22/02 03:48:00 AM EDT

You made it! Are Java APIs so boring, are new language constructs too dull, are enterprise patterns too cryptic?
Relax, let's talk about the future of Java.

Ralf Bund 10/22/02 01:34:00 AM EDT

I don't think, that Java will die, but I do believe, that Java will loose ground. From point of a business application developer Java is a real mess. The printing functions are the worst I've seen since the early 80s, the implementation of swing is stupid (it's running on OS with graphical UI! Why not using the native components but reinventing the wheel?). It is definitely not designed keeping the programmer in mind who has to program a logistics system. Our main target is to cut costs during development. We need stable and cheap software for our companies. And above all we need continuity! Testing one of our applications developed with JDK 1.3.1 with JRE 1.4.1 showed bug after bug. This is not what I think of careing for the customers investments.


Rich Katz 10/21/02 09:44:00 PM EDT

22 months ago, Sun's world was rocked by the Enron Raptors - as were many other corporations in Northern California. The bad guys from Enron bilked $20 billion out of the U.S. economy, specifically out of the California economy. Every person who lives in California was forced to pay 5 times the normal rate for energy for about 5 months. Very few large corporations in California have made profits over the past year or so.

What I want to know is, when do we get it back?

$20 billion would create a lot of jobs and a lot of economy that we don't have.

In addition to that the Federal OMB has been withholding technology funds. The economic advisors know about tax models. They don't know about I/O models. There are no broadband financing programs in the U.S. There's plenty of money for an ugly war, but no money in the U.S. for broadband pilot programs something many governments have around the world - from the UK to China.

If it wasn't for Enron, Sun would not be suffering. And if it was not for a callous and misdirected U.S. government, we would see some recovery
start to happen. Basically, the U.S. government is anti-American economy.

There needs to be a change of heart.
Whether that specifically would help Sun enough, I don't know.

But I don't see how it could hurt.

Larry Kim 10/21/02 08:07:00 PM EDT

If i had the choice of buying either a Big Mac or 1 share of Sun Microsystems, i would choose the burger because at least i would get some value.

Psuedo Stratified 10/21/02 07:46:00 PM EDT

Sun's layoffs are a result of three years of gearing up (from 1998 to 2000) for a bubble that burst 2 years ago in 2001. The layoff last year and the layoff this year are the adjustment that Sun has been forced to make to respond to that contraction.

However, Java is not part of that contraction. On the contrary, Java continues to be one of the bright spots in Sun's product portfolio. And, amid the downsizing in the rest of the company, Sun has announced that it is creating a group specifically focused on Sun's desktop technologies including Linux, GNOME, Mozilla, StarOffice and - you guessed it - Java. So it is possible that Java investment by Sun will increase despite the layoff.

10/29/02 09:31:00 AM EST

Arguing the viability of Java based on the merits of the language as seen through the eyes of developers is meaningless. There are still Delphi jobs out there, but not too many. It's all about the money.

Microsoft will eventually drive Java to a small, out-of-the-way corner of the software world. The game was Sun's to lose, and they lost it.

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