VANCOUVER, British Columbia—In a meeting of programming heavyweights dubbed a shootout of competing platforms, participants exhibited criticism and sarcasm, but also a grudging respect for their opposing peers.
At a session entitled "The Great J2EE vs. Microsoft .Net Shootout" at the OOPSLA conference here this week, software development superstars debated the relative strengths and weaknesses of Microsofts .Net and Suns Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition. The panelists included Anders Hejlsberg, Microsoft Corp. distinguished engineer and lead designer for the C# language; John Crupi, chief Java architect for Sun Services at Sun Microsystems Inc.; Don Box, leading Microsoft architect on its Indigo project; Rob High, IBMs chief architect for the WebSphere Application Server Family; and Alan Knight, lead developer for the Web Toolkit at Cincom Systems Inc. and a Smalltalk expert.
Asked whether Microsofts developers had Java envy or vice versa, the panelists had a variety of responses but mostly expressed mutual respect.
"There are certainly people in the big house that have Java envy," Box said. "I know that for every Java idea there are probably three different implementations of it in .Net floating around Microsoft."
Crupi said: "I think its admirable that they are like Java. Microsoft is in an interesting position in that they have seen the successes of Java and Java technology and were able to learn that and apply it. And the ways that theyre applying it, some are very interesting and some are still lacking in addressing all the needs of the enterprise developer."
Heljsberg acknowledged the contributions of Java. Indeed, many maintain that his C# creation is as Java-like as languages go.
"Wed be crazy not to recognize the success the competition is having," Hejlsberg said. "I think its obvious to anybody that theres competition between .Net and Java. And I think wed be stupid to ignore what theyve done there. Ive seen further by standing on the shoulders of giants. There is so much in this industry that theres really no reason to reinvent. So I think we are all learning from each other."
IBMs High said he did not "subscribe to the idea that there is one thing that fits all needs. So I would hope we dont end up with a single model with the expectation that that is a utopia. I dont think the best move is for J2EE to emulate everything .Net did or vice versa."
Knight, who was on the panel to represent an independent view, said: "I would certainly be willing to agree that both Java and Microsoft have both gone off in the wrong direction and to some extent are following each other in circles. But there are positives and negatives. The positive is they are learning from each other and gaining best practices. The negative is they are chasing each others tails to get feature checklists matched up, regardless of value to developers."
In response to a question asking what feature each side saw as most appealing in their competitors platform for enterprise development, Box took a long pause as though he had no response, but then said, "I love the fact that the VM [virtual machine] is fairly small…"