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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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