Two years down the line

After two years on the staff of Computer Weekly, Cliff Saran pens his swansong, recalling Java lows and Microsoft highs

After two years on the staff of Computer Weekly, Cliff Saran pens his swansong, recalling Java lows and Microsoft highs

Cliff Saran


It was the best of times, it was the best of times. I joined Computer Weekly just over two years ago, just before mighty Microsoft launched Windows 98.

The software giant and most of the industry were looking to make a major splash.

But the only attention Microsoft managed to grab was the hardened gaze of Joel Klein at the US Department of Justice, who nearly stopped Windows 98 from shipping.

At the time, Oracle chairman Larry Ellison was still harping on about how Java and the Network Computer would kick Bill Gates' backside. Not likely.

Ellison, as usual, failed to take into account the instinctive tendency people experience to reach for their wallets with new Microsoft software. And what a disappointment Java has been.

Years ago, when programmers started playing with the early beta releases, the possibility of a truly cross-platform development environment for the Internet was very appealing.

But Sun had no idea how much of a good thing it had with Java, and Scott McNealy really should be kicking himself for screwing up an initiative which could have truly changed the face of IT.

Instead, Sun held Java close to its chest, failed in its submission for official certification of the language and ruined any sense of Java community with its community source licence.

Meanwhile, something different was about to hit the IT fan. It was the open source movement and it came across like a socialist programmers' movement against the capitalist pig software houses (particularly Microsoft).

IBM even went as far as putting Linux on the S/390, presumably as a boost of Viagra-fuelled sex appeal for boring, middle-aged mainframes.

On reflection, it seems to me that the major software companies are running scared of Linux - something that's free could seriously hit profits. Everyone then announced Linux software products and Linux services, but few have delivered anything users are prepared to buy.

So what have the past two years meant to Joe IT Manager? Ultimately, not a lot. IT managers are a conservative bunch. They can pilot all the latest and greatest technology - Linux, Windows 2000 - but dare they touch a live production system? Not likely.

Two years is a heck of a long time in the fast-paced world of IT - what with marketing managers inventing new acronyms for the same thing; product managers shipping more vapourware and PRs spinning more hype.

But where would we be without them? Life would be a lot less fun!

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