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Java on the Desktop: Javaland Seems Divided

JDJ Feedback Special

(September 22, 2003) - Opinions in the Java community seem completely divided as to whether the Java Desktop System is a stroke of genius by Sun or a "bridge too far" in terms of marketing stretch.

Alan Williamson's opinion piece, "Does Sun's Desktop System 'Hijack' the Java Brand?" acted as a lightning-rod for arguments on both sides of the issue. JDJ Industry Newsletter here provides a round-up of the best comments received to date.

Many Java developers seized the opportunity presented to them by Williamson's piece to express the view that what Sun needs to develop is faster, easier, and better tools to develop and deploy (desktop/Web) applications regardless of what those tools might actually be called. In other words, while acknowledging that marketing is key to any lasting success, their worry is that marketing will only take you so far.

"qmdb" for example writes: "The Sun Desktop project will not be a success. The weak point of a Sun product is always the User Interface. Sun is not capable of building a normal GUI, so building a complete Desktop will be very hard for them."

Others seem more concerned about the confusion that almost inevitably is going to ensure when a desktop system based on Linux is served up to the outside world as a 'Java' Desktop System.

"If it's not Java don't call it Java."

Leroy Beaversdorf writes candidly, "This is the third (fourth?) name change from Sun in the last 18 months or so. WorkShop, Forte, Sun ONE, Sun Java...What's next?"

"This is not the worst of it," intones Marcos Polanco. "By using 'Java' in their own products - JDS, JES, java.com, java.net - Sun is no longer the 'technological Switzerland.' In the old system, it used 'SunONE', IBM used 'WebSphere', and BEA used 'WebLogic' when talking about their platforms...'Java' was a neutral force."

In other words, Polanco takes the same basic position as Alan Williamson, although - unlike Williamson, who sees it from Sun's side too - his tone is altogether gloomier.

"By hijacking the name for their own products," Polanco concludes, "Sun is making it more difficult for others to play the Java game. Linux has remained neutral, and is reaping the benefits. Another one bites the dust."

Another developer, identifying himself only as Mark, takes this line of criticism one stage further, extending the question-mark to Sun's strategy as a whole.

"Sun is trying to gain access to the desktop market as other big and powerful companies have," he writes, referencing IBM's os2 warp, and Oracle's New Internet Computers (NICs). "They failed miserably," continues Mark. "Why? NO APPLICATIONS, AND NO PC VENDORS ON BOARD."

"Nothing will change," says Mark, no longer shouting, "if Sun doesn't change this. After all from the desktop perspective they are wrapping up open source products into one/easier install. However, nothing is stopping corporations from using these products now."

He then has a final thought. "Also, has anyone heard of Lindows!? Same exact strategy as Mad Hatter."

Sensible Strategy

A developer posting only as "Dave" believes that the Java Desktop System, on the contrary, is perfectly sensible. "I think that as long as there is an easy-to-use-and-install OS that guarantees my Java app will run smmothly then this will be an asset in the marketplace," he writes.

"One other thing," Dave adds, "in my experience in the last 10 years, Sun's products seem to be improving at a quicker and quicker pace, faster than the opposition. I have been using Sun ONE Studio(Forte) and it is a rock solid piece of software which does everything nost people need, for free, even on Windows."

And a Belgian developer, S.C., takes a similar line: "Linux is the ideal development platform for Java and C++," he writes, adding "This JDS marketing will make it a lot easier to use Linux. That matters. Any step forward for Linux is a step forward for Java. Together they form a framework."

S.C. expands on this thought. "Everything that Microsoft, does it calls .NET. It helps. The battle is not anymore Windows vs Unix. Both will be around. It is Java against .NET. Nobody is interested in a language. What is important is a framework and the investment that companies do in that framework."

"I don't think it is loose marketing. By calling everything Java ...it helps to understand that there is a concerted effort."

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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