The prospect of web services is finally moving from promise to potential, and that means developers will have to start choosing their weapons. Last week, Microsoft, which long ago figured out that courting developers is a key to success, introduced its service tool kit and seriously began the courting process. For those of you not ready to wade through the new .Net class libraries and JLCA (the new Java Language Conversion Assistant), you should rest assured that Microsofts Visual Studio .Net is indeed the biggest change to the companys development strategy since the Visual Basic 1.0 introduction in 1991.
Web services will never fulfill the promise of seamless, Web-enabled businesses without a development community that will wrestle the hype into code. And developers, once they master a development environment, are reluctant to take on a new platform. Winning over developers is pivotal in determining whether the Web services environment unfolds under the Microsoft, Sun or IBM umbrella—or even some open-source umbrella unbeholden to any vendor.
For those who do want to wade through .Net and JLCA, see Peter Coffees review of Visual Studio .Net in this weeks issue. Peter is the premier analyst of development tools in the technology arena, and I cant imagine anyone else better equipped to make sense of this hugely important but hugely complex product. Once youve read through the review, Id suggest going to our Web site to click through Peters walk-through of VS .Net. As Peter says, "No development shop should attempt to learn this whole thing at once."
If you were wondering what happened to those companies that tried to build their business on the prospect of providing applications over the Web, turn to Evan Koblentzs article "Round 1 Survivors Face an Uphill Battle." Evan points out that the early ASPs that are still around are pointing to the types of successful IT services that can be offered on the Web.
If you are looking for an actual application offered by a service provider that is finding happy customers, Salesforce.com is a good place to start. While still no threat to market leader Siebel Systems, Salesforce.com has endeavored to take its success in hosted customer resource management to a much broader set of enterprise offerings. Hosted applications are appealing for their quick deployment and low initial cost. The downfall has been when you wanted to do some serious customizing or offer a disconnected mode of operation as well as the online mode.
In the future, Web services will demand the development of applications that can work in all modes, are quick to customize and take full advantage of the Net. Picking which vendor will be in the lead five years from now in offering those services is still a guessing game with no clear leader.
What do you think of the VS .Net strategy? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.