The Tower of Babel crumbles

Feature

The Tower of Babel crumbles

Microsoft opens doors to its .net initiative

All the talk was of winners and losers last week, after a Californian judge delivered his verdict in the long-running battle between Sun Microsystems and Microsoft over the Redmond giant's use and perceived abuse of the Java programming language.

In truth, the only real loser was the developer community, for whom truly interoperable, architecture-independent systems remain as fanciful a pipe dream as ever.

The settlement forced Microsoft to pay $20m to Sun, and barred it from declaring its products compatible with Java - the cross-platform language that promised to unify all flavours of software and hardware.

For Microsoft, $20m is small change. More important is the danger of losing the power to leverage the global abundance in Java skills. Hence the release, early this week, of Jump (Java User Migration Path) to .net, which in true Ronseal fashion "does exactly what it says on the can" by offering developers a means of migrating from Java to .net.

Microsoft should be applauded for announcing a strategy that helps Java developers use their existing skills to write applications and services for its ambitious .net initiative. It needs to. For .net to succeed, everybody needs to be talking the same language.

It would be naive to read too much altruism into Microsoft's new initiative. Still, it does at least offer the ghost of a chance that the IT Holy Grail of truly open platforms might one day become a reality.

For its part, Sun seems to have lost sight of the rationale that lay at the heart of its original development of Java. The company's reluctance to consider Java being available on Microsoft platforms belies any claims Sun might make for the language's interoperability, and begs the question of when, if ever, the company will submit it to an independent industry body for ratification as an open standard.

This ongoing software jihad waged by Sun and Microsoft underlines the wider truth that suppliers will continue to push out proprietary products that are not compatible with competing systems, as long as doing so will achieve customer lock-in.

More than one rail passenger over the past few months has pondered why, in a world where we can cure cancer and send rockets to the moon, we are unable to maintain a rail network that runs to time. By the same token, the IT directorate must wonder why an industry that can forge such a potent tool as the Internet cannot sustain an environment in which systems can talk to each other.

Unless Web services can interoperate, businesses will be unable to share information or resources efficiently. It will not be a Microsoft-only or Sun-only strategy that wins. The winners will be users who create Web services that are independent of any architecture these titans of IT develop. Microsoft, it would seem, understands this better than Sun.

All the talk was of winners and losers last week, after a Californian judge delivered his verdict in the long-running battle between Sun Microsystems and Microsoft over the Redmond giant's use and perceived abuse of the Java programming language.

In truth, the only real loser was the developer community, for whom truly interoperable, architecture-independent systems remain as fanciful a pipe dream as ever.

The settlement forced Microsoft to pay $20m to Sun, and barred it from declaring its products compatible with Java - the cross-platform language that promised to unify all flavours of software and hardware.

For Microsoft, $20m is small change. More important is the danger of losing the power to leverage the global abundance in Java skills. Hence the release, early this week, of Jump (Java User Migration Path) to .net, which in true Ronseal fashion "does exactly what it says on the can" by offering developers a means of migrating from Java to .net.

Microsoft should be applauded for announcing a strategy that helps Java developers use their existing skills to write applications and services for its ambitious .net initiative. It needs to. For .net to succeed, everybody needs to be talking the same language.

It would be naive to read too much altruism into Microsoft's new initiative. Still, it does at least offer the ghost of a chance that the IT Holy Grail of truly open platforms might one day become a reality.

For its part, Sun seems to have lost sight of the rationale that lay at the heart of its original development of Java. The company's reluctance to consider Java being available on Microsoft platforms belies any claims Sun might make for the language's interoperability, and begs the question of when, if ever, the company will submit it to an independent industry body for ratification as an open standard.

This ongoing software jihad waged by Sun and Microsoft underlines the wider truth that suppliers will continue to push out proprietary products that are not compatible with competing systems, as long as doing so will achieve customer lock-in.

More than one rail passenger over the past few months has pondered why, in a world where we can cure cancer and send rockets to the moon, we are unable to maintain a rail network that runs to time. By the same token, the IT directorate must wonder why an industry that can forge such a potent tool as the Internet cannot sustain an environment in which systems can talk to each other.

Unless Web services can interoperate, businesses will be unable to share information or resources efficiently. It will not be a Microsoft-only or Sun-only strategy that wins. The winners will be users who create Web services that are independent of any architecture these titans of IT develop. Microsoft, it would seem, understands this better than Sun.


Email Alerts

Register now to receive ComputerWeekly.com IT-related news, guides and more, delivered to your inbox.
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

This was first published in January 2001

 

COMMENTS powered by Disqus  //  Commenting policy