Down to the Business of Java Development
As JavaOne hype recedes Friday, the focus is on better Java development techniques and technical sessions
By Lori Piquet, Editor-in-chief
San Francisco (June 8, 2001)
With the throngs thinned considerably—thanks to the exiting business contingent, marketers, and press—Friday's JavaOne definitely focused on development. To the vast majority of attendees, that's what the show has been about all along.
For every complaint I've heard this week about speakers having too much leeway to tailor content around their proprietary products and architectures, there's been a favorable comment about the large number of sessions and the technical savvy of presenters.
As we've reported, the two leading tracks at JavaOne this year revolved around Web services and XML, and the J2ME platform and Java mobile devices. But there were plenty of other rumblings at the show.
Modeling the Future
Java-based visual modeling is getting a resurgence of attention as smaller vendors attempt to get a toehold in the marketplace long owned by Rational Software.
While hardly a new company, TogetherSoft seems to be gaining the kind of critical mass that could propel it into the role of a potential David. Their ControlCenter is winning fans among both customers and analysts. Mark Driver, Senior Software Analyst for Gartner, made a point during a briefing Tuesday of mentioning his surprise at hearing TogetherSoft mentioned so often as a valued platform among end-users that he speaks to.
ControlCenter 5 is fully certified for J2EE compatibility, it supports C++ and IDL, and (although they weren't touting it this week) it will support the Microsoft Intermediate Language (MSIL) later this year. TogetherSoft's new product, Participate, about which the company refused to divulge details, will be released in September.
WebGain announced Monday that the upcoming 4.5 release of StructureBuilder, a subset of its WebGain Studio Java IDE, allows for the modeling of Java classes and UML classes in the same diagram. It also increased the number of standard UML diagram types supported by the application.
For its part, Rational announced that Rational Rose RealTime would now support the J2ME platform and MIDP, allowing developers to perform UML modeling and subsequent deployment of J2ME applications on mobile devices.
Probably the most happily nodding heads were seen at the Headway Software booth. This Irish company demonstrated its codebase visualization tool called Headway reView. With support for both Java and C++, reView uses UML in a way that makes it uniquely useful to developers and project managers in modeling, testing, and rewriting applications.
reView provides a very-easy-to-understand visual model of the entire codebase for an application—even an extremely complicated one. It shows all code dependencies at all levels. Because of its wide variety of extremely useful, graphical, and interactive views, reView seems like a tool capable of finding a niche.
Accepting the Inevitable
Although I've seen plenty of JavaOne coverage that points out the requisite .NET bashing that's occurred, my perception is sort reversed. I was expecting to see much more bashing. The prevailing attitude here seems to be a grudging resignation of the fact that .NET will challenge Java in many ways. However, people also feel that Java's openness—combined with the support of the best and brightest developers and vendors—will prevent the Microsoft environment from eclipsing it entirely.
In the aforementioned briefing on Tuesday, Gartner analyst Driver was very direct about what he expected to happen over the next five years: .NET will dent Java, but not break it.
Driver said he thought it unlikely that either .NET or Java would take over and become the development standard. What's more likely, he said, is that "it will be a two-standards world. Java and Microsoft competing head-to-head for the next five years."
He believed there is a probability of absolute zero that .NET will fail. On the other hand, he said there is a 10 percent chance that the opposite could happen—that ".NET could effectively kill Java."
The most likely scenarios lie in the middle ground: a 30 percent probability that .NET and Java coexist equally and a 60 percent probability that .NET makes a serious threat to Java in about three years.
Driver said he believed that the Department of Justice's decisions in the resolution of its antitrust case against Microsoft could have a significant effect on the marketplace.
"A Microsoft software company, free of the OS, is a very dangerous thing," he said.
Other analysts I spoke to tended to view Java not in the context of outside competition, but rather in the context of its arguable maturity and the ability of Sun and other vendors to support developers throughout the hard battles to come.
Albert Pang, IDC's Research Manager, eCommerce Software, reacted to a comment early in the week from Sun executives about the future invisibility of Java by saying, "If Java really becomes invisible, how does Sun make money off it? Web services is part of it. But they're taking baby steps."
Pang said that developers in the future will be forced to choose technology that brings them the biggest gains. "Developers are working for immediate returns," he said.
"This is still an emerging technology," Pang continued. "For all intents and purposes, they're still scratching the surface."