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The High Price of Process : Page 2

By forging Java in the crucible of the JCP, Sun gains moral credibility, but risks falling even further behind in the rapidly-evolving technology marketplace.


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Standards Processes Are Inherently Slow
"The W3C has a track record of delivering technologies that have been through an appropriate process of due diligence. And have gone through a standard process that we all buy into," said Simon Nicholson, Manager-Market Strategist for sun's XML Technology Center. "That stuff takes time. There is no secret sauce there. There is no way of short circuiting the fact that you have to set people down at a table and work through the issues, come to a consensus of opinion. Standards processes like that have existed for decades."

Said Bosak: "Any real standards process is going to operate much more slowly than the way that Microsoft does things. End of story."

At one time, in a far simpler age, software developers could afford to be as concerned with the journey as the destination.



But should it be? XML and Java may already coexist but no one can deny that the 1.4 version of the J2EE—with all of the requisite technologies of the day present together—is already going to come nearly a year behind the same integration delivered by Microsoft. To speculate on the cumulative effect of further process on Sun's nimbleness with Java is disheartening.

Is slower growth a tradeoff that the Java development world at large is prepared to accept in return for the nobility of egalitarianism? Certainly no one expects Sun (or Microsoft or anyone else) to abandon the formal standardization process. But Sun's decision to cycle all revisions through the formidable committee of the JCP is a ponderous weight. Technology changes too rapidly. There are well over 200 Java Specification Requests currently under consideration at the JCP—and only 6 have been rejected. Sun is running underwater.

Where Sun shepherds, Microsoft corrals—complete with lasso and rope burns. And, hey, if the planks of the gate happen to hit you in your fluffy flanks on the way in, well that's just a small tax you pay for the privilege of having your haunches delivered someplace safe and warm for the night.
Don't get me wrong: if I were some manner of beast, I'm quite sure I'd prefer to be gently lulled to my destination rather than hogtied and dragged, but when darkness falls I want to be curled up in a foul pile of hay, right next to the trough. In other words, the sooner I get where I'm supposed to be, the better off I am.

At one time, in a far simpler age, software developers could afford to be as concerned with the journey as the destination. But today, what I see are developers with mountainous workloads and companies under incredible pressure to wring as much from technology as they possibly can, immediately.

And it's rather ironic to note that this issue is a mirror of the one hotly debated in the VB world for the last year. Many VB developers were bitter to find that Microsoft had changed the language significantly in .NET, without consultation, with seeming disregard for the developers who use—and like—VB 6. But the number of those who are still upset decreases steadily. To a great extent, VB developers have come to find that there's enough to love in VB.NET to forgive the rough and rather heedless manner of its administration. For those who have given .NET a fair trial, the reaction to the dubious handling of the transition seems to be: necessary medicine.

As I look at Java, I see the number of "extra" APIs necessary for modern development increasing by leaps and bounds. The number of both proprietary and open implementations increases as well. Because the process hasn't caught up with the technology, there's no approved standard, so developers have to make quick and sometimes ill-informed choices. Some feel overwhelmed. And I think it won't be long, really, before Java developers are ready for a little necessary medicine of their own. For now, they can be grateful that third-party Java vendors are reacting with far more expediency and mindfulness of market demands than Sun is, and that, in the meantime, they can always shell out extra for the airbags.



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