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i-Technology Viewpoint: "Java is Back!"

Better times lie ahead for the language once known as 'Oak'

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    The best things come in threes, they say. So this month's threefold boost for Java suggests that, in a nutshell, Java is back.

    The three items involve an IT commentator, an industry executive, and a recent development within the software industry itself. After a couple of years off the radar screen of the general public, the language that began as Oak (developed as part of the so-called "Green Project" at Sun started in December 1990 by Patrick Naughton, Mike Sheridan, and James Gosling) and then, as Java, burst onto the technology world in May 1995, is suddenly back on the tip of everyone's tongue.

    Before the inevitable complaints ("But it never went anywhere!") start, let's remember that everything is relative. A "Googlefight" on, say, Java vs .NET tells us that all has not necessarily gone Java's way just recently. A "mere" 66 million "Java" hits...versus 388 million for "NET" - but that may all be about to change.

    First we have Sun's  own president and COO, Jonathan Schwartz, putting Java firmly at the center of almost everything he says, does, thinks, or writes. His now-infamous blog of last week for example, in which he managed to lambast IBM even more than he'd done the previous week, ended:

    "Were I a CIO facing these issues [the technical effort needed to port an app off one app server to another], I'd stay focused on the one thing definitively under my control - keeping the cost of substitution, of at least application portability, as close to zero as possible. How? You guessed it, I'd write to Java."

    One up for Java.

    Then came the influential columnist and IT commentator David Berlind, who wrote this week:

    "I do agree with Schwartz on his final point. Barring a need for simple scripting that could be satisfied by PHP, Perl, or Python, of the development choices that put you in control and that leave as many of your options as open as possible, Java is the way to go."

    Two up for Java.

    Most recently comes a San Jose Business Journal article saying that, after years of virtually ignoring the gaming industry, venture capitalists are finally ready to play - and attributing that readiness to, in large part, Java.

    VCs in the US made just six gaming investments totaling $50 million in all of 2003, the article reports, yet in the second quarter of 2004 alone, there were five largely mobile gaming deals totaling $86 million. While Qualcomm's BREW platform reached sales of 11.6 million units in 2003, up from 3.5 million the prior year, Java-enabled handset sales tripled in 2003 to 95.5 million units. All Java handsets are perfect for playing mobile games.

    Three up for Java.

    There will be further milestones along the way in 2004-5, and far more substantial than these three. But good things do come in threes, so make a note that you heard it here at JDJ first: Java and Linux, it seems increasingly certain, will be critical drivers of the future. Sun has a foot in both camps.

    Java, most certainly, is back. Maybe in 2005 even the Googlefight results will turn Sun's way, who knows?

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  • Exclusive .NETDJ Interview with Don Box - The King of COM
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  • 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
    Chris Smith 08/13/04 08:02:29 AM EDT

    What a bunch of crap. How come any discussion of Java always degrades into a C# bashing contest. If Java was really that great it would have more developers using it, mostly because it has been around 5 YEARS LONGER than .NET. But it hasn''t, and in a short time Microsoft has been able to build a platform that is quite desirable for many programers. Why? I will let other people bitch and moan about how MS is taking over the world; all I will say is that I stay away for Java for a personal set of reasons and use C# for another. I do not speak for all or even many programmers. All I am trying to say is that people need to realize that perhaps there is a reason why folks use .NET over Java, other than because they have no soul.

    madic 08/13/04 08:01:21 AM EDT

    maybe we can do a real fight on googlefight with:
    java vs dotnet

    since .net catch a lot of .net web domain! :)

    OldJoke 08/13/04 08:01:06 AM EDT

    Q: What''s the difference between Java and C#?

    A: One is secure, reliable, mature, scalable, portable and ubiquitous with an installed base in the billions and a developer community in the millions with thousands of open source code programs written in it. The other is called C#.

    aNo0n 08/13/04 07:28:37 AM EDT

    Rick, you say your company uses C#.

    If you're moving from Java to C# then you've either:

    1) Thrown out your Big Iron and spent an equivalent amount on a Windows cluster

    2) Hired a bunch of people without checking if they knew the language your system is built on

    3) Got paid off by Microsoft (ie: Uni. of Waterloo)

    4) Decided you wanted something "easy" instead of something "stable"

    C# is not applicable to jack sh*t compared to Java right now. Most core logic is done using J2EE. If it sucks, then you hired the wrong coders. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Java runs on some much bigger iron than C#.

    These people must be developing piddly desktop apps that backend to something pseudo-enterprise. Works great in the lab... try scaling it out to 10,000 workers now. A company I worked for tried that. Told the poor bastards they contracted for that they''d have to buy twice the number of servers and upgrade to 2K Datacenter.

    C# is the language of people who don't know how to program. They like it because it works like VB for the GUI and alows them to do the stupid OO stuff they learned in intro to data structures. They are the ones who catch exceptions with blank handlers in Java at work. They are the ones who use a 3 meg C# app to do the work of a 30 line perl script.

    Not that you can do anything about it, but I would guess that the reason why Java is having problems in your area is because it's becoming more populated with Microsoft nitwit apologists.

    (And I would blame the University of Waterloo for selling out and thinking they're smarter than the rest of the world, allowing all the Canadians to think "If it's good enough for our best CS school, it's good enough for us!")

    ProvenancePlea 08/13/04 07:21:49 AM EDT

    Talking of Java''s Gosling, he made an interesting public plea on Wednesday in his own blog...

    Provenance: a plea August 11, 2004 10:39 PM
    Wouldn''t it be cool if file formats of all kinds had provisions for recording the provenance of a file? For example, wouldn''t be cool if the EXIF header standard for JPEG (and other) files had a place for historical information? So that Photoshop and other imaging applications could record and least a summary of what was done to the file? This would be vaguely like what happens with mod histories in source control systems like CVS and SCCS, but integrated with the data, supported by the tools that do the modifications, carried with the file as it gets moved from place to place, and more automatic.

    yahboe 08/13/04 07:13:11 AM EDT

    java rawks

    Rick 08/13/04 07:07:02 AM EDT

    Try a google battle between C# and Java. The results are more enlightening.

    My company uses both at present, but are shifting back towards Java. The primary reasons are the readily available open source libraries (read: if it is broken, we can fix it, not forced to wait for a vendor to fix it), platform/server independence, and reliability. Java still lacks a decent GUI builder (at least one that isn''t bound to a specific IDE/add-on library), which impedes its progress.

    We leverage web services/XML as the "lowest common denominator" interop layer, but hope that the Sun/Microsoft
    peace treaty yields lower-level web service compatibility (e.g. WS-I stuff plus TCP-level or other high performance transports).

    Recycle Michael 08/13/04 06:55:33 AM EDT

    Let''s see if we can rewrite the whole ".net isn''t a fair search" in any more ways shall we. I think everyone realises the implications of the Google search using these particular terms. Can we move the comments along now. I''m all for recycling but this one has been done to death!

    Miguel 08/13/04 06:40:31 AM EDT

    I am not going to join the religious "Java vs .NET" fray, but I do have one comment on the article: posting the results of a googlefight between Java and .NET is at best ridiculous and at worst downright intellectualy dishonest. Google is not strictly searching for ".NET" when doing the searching, it will match anything that contains "NET" (like CNET). Since there are a few domain names that end in .net. (not to mention some quite popular English words that contain net, like network) it''s actually quite surprising that only 380 odd million hits are found for .NET...

    Impartial Marshall 08/13/04 06:38:30 AM EDT

    Cool! Where better to get impartial .NET vs Java feedback, than on the JDJ Feedback page. I''d exepect nothing less than unbiased and balanced comment! Nice to see everyone patting each other on the back, creating affirmation of how right they all are! This way you don''t ever have to leave the safety of your own chosen language.

    anonymous 08/13/04 06:37:47 AM EDT

    Read this article:

    http://www.paulgraham.com/javacover.html

    Q Pain 08/13/04 05:30:42 AM EDT

    This is a no-brainer. With Java you can write, use and sell distributed AND stand alone applications regardless of platform. .NET cannot. Why would anyone choose anything else?

    Dejan 08/13/04 05:05:47 AM EDT

    If you try to review Google search results for .Net you would get only one relevant result on the first page! Searching Java returns all relevant pages at least on the first page. 380,000,000 .Net pages?! I am sure there are less than 10% relevant results here!

    Even searching "Sun Java" versus "Microsoft .Net" would not be adequate since Sun is not the only and not the biggest company that supports Java. I am quite sure that there are far more Java than .Net pages on the Internet.

    Valery Shishkin 08/13/04 04:45:14 AM EDT

    I don''t need to seach Java. I can just go to http://java.sun.com or Apache Jakarta or .... and find everything I need including source code, sample and documentation.

    I do need seach ".NET" because I can''t find source code and the technology is not so clear as java does.

    Murray 08/13/04 01:07:57 AM EDT

    The bogus search of NET will count web site URL''s as well as any other references to nets (including fishing). Try NET and microsoft and you get a more reasonable 9.5 million, versus the Java and Sun search that gets 6.3 million. So the gap is much closer that the crap article you posted would suggest. How about doing some real analysis next time and stop wasting peoples time with this shit.

    Joel C. Lim 08/13/04 12:35:57 AM EDT

    A more accurate search would be "Sun Java" vs "Microsoft .NET". The author is still correct, "Microsoft .NET" out-searches
    "Sun-Java". "Sun Java" has about 5,770,000
    while "Microsoft .NET" has about 7,390,000.
    Not so large a margin, it think. But,
    a margin nonetheless.
    This shows that the Microsoft .NET
    marketing team doing their job. :-D

    Calvin Payne 08/12/04 08:54:06 PM EDT

    I have been saying for years (before .NET) that "JIT Happens!" (Don''t try to steal my slogan for T-Shirts). JAVA is definitely the elite language now and in the future. However, until hundreds of software vendors start making more components, better IDE''s, and simply market JAVA better through more business associations, I think it will continue to compete poorly against MS .NET. History proves this. Look at what happened to Ami-Pro and MS Word. We all know that Lotus Ami-Pro was Light Years ahead, but we all now use MS Word, and in response to any queries about Ami-Pro, people will say, "Ami... Who?". Why? MARKETING by Microsoft!!!

    I was an instructor an a technical college here in Jacksonville when I tried to get the Director of Education to stop teaching C++ to beginner programming students in favor of teaching JAVA (for one thing, it''s easier). He replied, "All of our business advisors on our Advisory Committee are telling us to stick with C++ and VB". I simply replied, "That is because Jacksonville is about 5 to 10 years behind every other major city in the country!" Of course, I was nearly fired after that.

    Calvin G. Payne, C.E.O.
    Business Software Institute
    Jacksonville, FL

    The Geezer 08/12/04 08:24:44 PM EDT

    The search for NET returns everything with xxx.xx.net and advertisements for mosquito nets. Sure Java has the coffee thing going, but do you think a more accurate ''fight'' could be arranged?

    GosLIng 08/12/04 04:25:19 PM EDT

    In a fantastic interview last week the co-creator of Java, James Gosling, explained how he came up with the idea of the JVM.

    Here''s what he said:

    Back when I was a grad student at Carnegie Mellon, I had this problem where I needed to have some kind of an architecture-neutral distribution format. We had a bunch of workstations called PERQ machines. The folks who built them were a bunch of hardware guys who didn''t want to do software. The only compiler that they could get for free was UCSD (University of California San Diego) Pascal. So they made the hardware interpret UCSD Pascal p-codes.

    My thesis advisor, Raj Reddy, asked me to spend the summer trying to figure out how to get the software from these PERQ machines to run on our VAXs.

    I started out writing a little hardware emulator, just to understand the p-codes. Then I realized I could actually write a code-generating program that translated from Pascal p-codes to VAX assembly code.

    So I wrote a hardware emulator for the PERQ machine that did hardware emulation by translating, and I spent a bunch of time trying to figure out why it was that the translation actually worked. One of the things that I noticed was that the code that I was getting at was actually better than the code that was coming out of the C compiler. I was quite floored by how well it worked, and I spent a bunch of time thinking about what it was about p-code that actually made it work, versus trying to do this for some other instruction set.

    Then fast-forward a bunch of years, when I was trying to do the project that Java came out of. I had to do this architecture-neutral distribution format, and then I just went ka-ching! You know, this p-code translator thing would actually just drop in there.

    And that formed the core of the design, and then I started talking to people like Peter Deutsch who had worked on the Smalltalk VMs. It just sort of came together.

    It''s interesting that what people often think of as a pure virtual machine for implementing a language did actually start out conceptually as a hardware emulator.

    Javawocky 08/12/04 04:16:40 PM EDT

    Erik Ulevik once said "VB is designed for lesser skilled developers, and it meets their needs very well. RAD is great, and the syntax is easy." To which Paolo Perrotta replied: "Simple is not the same as easy. VisualBasic is easy at the cost of unbearable (to me) complexity."

    Stick to Java, I would.

    FYI 08/12/04 04:12:06 PM EDT

    When asked last year what the best language for various Web services features was, Java led in five of six categories, according to a Web Services Development Survey from Evans Data Corporation. The categories that Java took top honors in were: Flow control; Syntax; Object/memory separation; Easy access to libraries, and Tight integration with XML. The one category where Java placed second was Tight integration with SOAP just behind Microsoft''s C#.

    VB/Delphi Still Beats Java 08/12/04 04:09:18 PM EDT

    Your typical VB or Delphi programmer has an embarressment of riches when it comes to components that do everything from serve IMAP to make cute rounded skinnable buttons. Wasn''t OO supposed to give us code reuse? How come Java development is not more productive than VB or Delphi (and please don''t tell me that it is).

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