…have been greatly exaggerated. Well, maybe. Last November Mike Gualtieri of Forrester Research claimed that Java Is A Dead-End For Enterprise App Development. Is he right? What about outside the enterprise space?
This theme has been recurring for years. Consider just a few:
And from the Way-Way-Back Machine, ZDNET wrote that Java EE ‘not dead yet’ (July, 2006). In this post, Bill Roth (VP BEA at the time) said, "J2EE is like the Mark Twain of enterprise software. Reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated."
So what’s the deal? Is Java dead? Well, it depends a lot on the definition of ‘dead.’ If dead means ‘nobody writes code with it anymore,’ then not even COBOL is dead. Some think that Java is “old-school,” “old tech,” etc. But in comparison to what? Many businesses still use AS/400, RPG, JCL, etc. productively. Relative to those, Java is just a new born.
Frankly, I don’t think the problem has anything to do with technology, age, etc. Java’s real problem is public relations. So many people defensively protest that “Java is NOT dead!” Why is that necessary? Isn’t it a lot like the proverbial politician having to answer the reporter who asks, “Do you still beat your wife?” Immediate defensive position; only some will believe the answer.
So, the problem is that people’s confidence in Java erodes every time this topic arises. Other contributors include:
- Sun’s history of on-again, off-again enthusiasm for Java
- Bickering between Sun and open source community
- Questions of whether Java a standard or not?
- How much damage will Java suffer under Oracle’s “closed source” approach?
All of these leave Java in a somewhat precarious position. CIOs, IT Directors and others are naturally skeptical of a technology surrounded by cacophony of “NO! It’s not dead yet!”
In a recent post regarding Oracle’s Java lawsuit against Google I mentioned the Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” In the tech industry, this lawsuit certainly makes things “interesting!”
One question swirling around this suit is, “What effect will the outcome of this suit have on mobile phone OSs?” Not to sound too conspiratorial, it’s probably valuable to take a “follow the money” approach to this question. Here’s a quick analysis of the platforms and how they may benefit (or not) from this situation.
- Google — Let’s dispense with this quickly. Even on the high end of conspiracy theories, Google really doesn’t have much to gain in this situation. The very existence of the legal battle will have a dramatic impact on the software industry’s investments in Android.
- Apple — The iPhone has been a huge success for Apple, even with its self-imposed support problems. But Steve & Co. know that Android is eating their lunch (Android’s Mobile Web Consumption Share In The US Is Surging, iOS Share Dropping) Oracle and Apple aren’t exactly direct competitors — Oracle is incapable of Apple’s user experience and marketing capabilities, and Apple can’t be bothered with such back-office primitives as databases, ERP, etc. Seems like a great match, right? If Apple and Oracle are in league on this “lawsuit to beat up Google,” how does Oracle benefit? There’s the (potential) Java benefit directly, but that doesn’t require or need Apple. I doubt this is the behind-the-scenes reality, but be on the look-out for some kind of co-marketing campaign.
- Microsoft — It’s pretty clear that Microsoft needs all the help it can get in the mobile space. The Windows Mobile platform has been a laggard for years (which is an eternity in the mobile market). Mobile phone and computing trends indicate that, at best, Windows Mobile whispers “Don’t forget about me. I’m still here!” Apple and Android together are the dominant, uncontested players in the mobile and tablet markets. Is it possible the Microsoft is in league with Oracle in order to put a big dent in the Apple-Android duopoly? Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform was released to production this week and, IMHO, is a Hail-Mary attempt at getting back in the mobile game. In order to become a major contender in the mobility race, Microsoft has to succeed on many fronts, including getting mobile app developers to choose .NET over Java. Raising FUD over Java’s future, licensing, etc. would certainly benefit .NET. But…Oracle and Microsoft would be very strange bedfellows – very!
- IBM — This is the obligatory inclusion of IBM. ‘Nuff said.
- RIM / Blackberry – Really? I’m not going to spend much time on this possibility. It seems to me that RIM’s market share is rapidly dwindling and they really don’t have anything to offer Oracle.
- Symbian — Who? Yes, Symbian is still used by some mobile phones. They have even less to offer Oracle than RIM does.
- Oracle — “What?” you ask. “How could Oracle benefit in the mobile space? They don’t even play in the mobile space.” Right, but that may be the point. Just as Microsoft is trying to re-enter the mobile space, Oracle needs to get in, too. Maybe RIM or Symbian are working with Oracle and plan to take Oracle into the mobile space. “Pretty thin” as Sgt. Murtaugh would say.
- VMWare — Now that we’re in “pretty thin” territory, I’ll bring VMWare into the picture. We already know that it is working on virtualization solutions for mobile devices, and it put its money on Java by acquiring Swing. VMWare made a good strategic move in partnering with Salesforce.com on VForce. Could it be promising Oracle inclusion in its mobile plans in exchange for freedom to use Java + Swing in all arenas?
So, where does that leave us? It seems to me that Apple and Microsoft stand the most to gain in the mobile space by Oracle’s suit against Google. Between the two, Microsoft seems to be a less likely bedfellow in this scenario. But then again, do you remember when Microsoft kept Apple alive in the ’90s?
Hmmm. Interesting times!
I have a confession to make: I don’t use Java much. There, I’ve said it. You’ll have to take this post with whatever grain(s) of salt you determine.
I’m a software developer who works primarily in the Microsoft technology stack. Many years of C#, .NET, etc. in my history, and now Azure is my main focus area. However, I’m very interested in Android, so lately I’ve been tinkering with it and considering building an app for the marketplace. Isn’t it interesting that a cell phone OS is the pull for me to get into Java, GAE, Eclipse and even Linux? But that’s probably better saved for another post.
Consider the case for Android developers: The up-front costs for Android development is almost exclusively hardware. You need a development workstation and, eventually, Android devices for real-world testing. Linux, Eclipse, Java and Android are all free. Well, for now.
What happens if Oracle gets its way in the Java suit against Google? Would Google continue giving Android away for free while paying Java royalties to Oracle? These questions clear the fog a bit in terms of the suit’s potential impact. And those impacts have already begun. Many developers are now forced to take a wait-and-see approach to Java-based projects, including Android projects.
So it seems that Java-based or -oriented projects, big and small, are losers in this equation. Who are the winners? Will Oracle be a winner? They may well see a revenue upswing, but it will drive many away from Java. Will IBM continue it’s Java investments? That leaves Microsoft. Will Java developers migrate to .NET?
“May you live in interesting times.” – Chinese proverb
Who wins market share from #Oracle’s #Java suit on #Google? #Microsoft? #IBM?
What is the impact of Oracle suing Google over the latter’s use of Java in Android? Is it just a little spittin’ match between two software giants? Or will it have industry-wide implications?
Unfortunately, this case will have substantial, industry-wide implications. If you’re not so sure you agree, I recommend you check out
The Rymer/Hammond post lays out Oracles options after acquiring Java. I agree with them when they say that Oracle chose to “Supercharge Java as a money machine.” The other option? Reinvigorate Java as an OSS leader.
Although it’s impossible to predict what will occur in the Java development community, I do think it’s clear that Oracle’s suit against Google will drive many formerly Free OSS (FOSS) systems to For-Profit OSS which would be better named OSSINO – OSS In Name Only.