Battles Eroding the Future of Web Services

By John Taschek  |  Posted 2001-09-10

As Sun and Microsoft duke it out over which is the supreme leader in Web development, their hubris has become comical, as if the vendors were political contenders who have succumbed to the sins of negative ads. Theyve done nothing but cloud the definition of what Web services really are.

Sun charges that Microsofts .Net is too little, too late—and that the company is a newbie to Web development and clearly out to control the universe.

There may be truth to the last charge, but Microsofts .Net is more evolutionary than revolutionary. Its built on Microsofts COM (Component Object Model) architecture. .Net—at least in its current vision—adds a layer of services, called the .Net Framework, to COM to make Web development easier.

In short, its still a Windows world but one exposed to the Web in a different, if undramatic way. Microsoft, meanwhile, says that those writing big systems on top of Win32, such as big database applications, will see few changes, if any. Except for Visual Basic developers, in fact, most developers will see few changes in the way they write code.

Meanwhile, Suns Sun ONE initiative is also less than revolutionary. Its a simple rebranding of products, albeit solid ones, and a direct response to .Net—nothing more. Suns richest development tool is Forte, once a leading client/server tool that was partially rewritten and now features bolted-on J2EE support.

Sun has hindered its leadership position, however, by bouncing around the standards bodies like a sing- along ball.

Sun yanked J2EE out of ECMA (European Computer Manufacturers Association) because it felt that it might lose control of the specification. It then started its own Java community "process" because it also wants to control the world.

Microsoft, of course, capitalized on the misstep, handing over to ECMA parts of .Net, such as C# and the CLI (Common Language Infrastructure), which includes some run-time specs and the class libraries collection. It was a marketing ploy that may eventually backfire, because ECMA now appears stronger than what Microsoft anticipated.

Meanwhile, Suns wish to be a strong central governing body for Java wont come true, since its really IBM that has written a majority of the J2EE specifications.

Developers clearly want Web services, but with the two bickering bullies in charge of the standards, maybe developers dont need them that much.

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