Leveraging the JVM

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

There are some very interesting technologies that not only live in the Java space but also have some application in terms of interoperability across the .Net platform. And it would seem to be of use and some value in regards to many things, including the RSS platform you and I have been discussing, establishing a thick, intelligent client that goes beyond Microsofts lock-in and control of the browser. Are you going to be supportive of this kind of an idea, or is there something about BEAs strategy that you find not particularly conducive to a loosely coupled alliance? Were very open to partnering with BEA. We have a few common competitors, and weve always been pretty impressed with their innovation and capacity to execute. What you point out, though, is that one of the single biggest challenges in the software marketplace has been and will forever be distribution—how do you get your code out into half a billion desktops? Unless you have ubiquity, youre not going to get people to rely upon your service.
One way around that is to basically take the Google path, which is to say, "Im going to provide distribution by being really good at what I do and relying on no runtime other than that provided by Microsoft." Now, theres a danger to that predilection: Microsoft could elect to disable your service at any point [with] a simple upgrade to their browser. And thus, Google is worried about Microsofts ability to compete with them.
So, what we do with Java distribution and how we continue to evolve that platform are of acute interest to me and my team, because we already have the distribution, and now, as you rightly point out, weve got to figure out a way of leveraging that distribution in some way other than simply providing a platform for downloads off of Java.com. But again, what Im suggesting here is that theres an opportunity to … Partner with BEA … You dont have to partner with BEA as much as to encourage this loosely coupled framework that would allow a much more high-fidelity and potentially transaction-oriented technology, which by the way also works just as well if not better on [Mozilla] Firefox. We agree with you. Yet youre going to have a debate with IBM where youre essentially trying to clear the air, but little else, in terms of being swayed toward any particular practical alternative to the polarized positions that exist right now, when heres an opportunity to be working in a creative way across a number of the vendor constituencies in regards to your desktop strategy. It seems youre spending some cycles that may or may not be as productive as something that could just happen right away with some support, hooking up Adam Bosworth and Tim Bray, for example, and getting an agreement to support open standards for this kind of caching mechanism. We may. Just bear in mind, though, that to the extent it involves the evolution of APIs, its going to involve the Java Community Process. Because Im not interested in having support for one companys technologies—whether thats Suns or someone elses—that disrupts the fundamental compatibility and the ability for partners to compete on a level playing field. Connecting the RSS and the Java world is an interesting discussion, and its certainly something weve spent a lot of time thinking about. Coupled with this notion of massive distribution, theres clearly an opportunity there. Its highly orthogonal to the broader issues surrounding the licensing models for Java and Solaris. BEA is using open-sourcing of the framework as the vehicle for getting this kind of technology into the ecosystem. Its a tough row to hoe, just open-sourcing it, assuming you get distribution. Lets face it, the vast majority, the preponderance of clients out there are Windows, and I dont think theres a single company that you can name thats been able to download, especially middleware, onto that client and expect to achieve any level of ubiquity. I agree that its an interesting technology, but fundamentally what we have to do is figure out whats the right evolution of APIs, and what the business model is around how we can get that. You mentioned Google having some dependencies on Internet Explorer, and I mentioned that IBM has some issues with its Workplace strategy. How does IBM persuade people to get the Eclipse runtime and put it on their desktops when the JVM is already there? Exactly. I guess youre telling me its not in Suns interest to support either of those other models unless it somehow fosters competition. I just dont understand where the opportunity is for partners like BEA to synchronize with you. Next page: Playing Office politics.

Steve Gillmor is editor of eWEEK.com's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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