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Coming in 2004


January 31, 2004

2003 is over and 2004 is well under way. The economy seems to be improving and the number of technical job openings for developers seems to be increasing. With all the cutbacks in the systems areas of many companies over the last few years, it will be interesting to see the changes and innovations that come over the next several years. More to the point of this article, it will be interesting to see what developer-related products are released in 2004. As in years past, a number of companies are talking about their plans for 2004.

Over at IBM

At IBM, the focus in 2004 will cover a number of technologies and products. While IBM is a big company with lots of different tools ranging from WebSphere to DB2, it is no surprise that they are not as specific on providing release dates for upcoming products. Regardless, you can look for a continued focus on J2EE and Eclipse. Also, look for a continued emphasis on Web services.

IBM's theme has been On Demand computing. Expect IBM to continue to make On Demand its number one focus in 2004. On Demand is the IBM strategy that focuses on business agility and a business' ability to respond to any demand, opportunity, or external change or threat.

In 2004, the focus at IBM will continue to be on open standards. Expect them to continue the push in areas such as grid computing, autonomic capabilities, and more. For developers using IBM products, they can expect Business Performance Management (BPM) to have an impact on what they are doing in 2004. BMP is a methodology with a focus on six core activities; Model, Deploy, Run, Monitor, Analyze, and Correct.

Over at IBM Pervasive

IBM has a couple of divisions. IBM's Pervasive unit is predicting that they will be more mainstream with their technologies in 2004. IBM is planning on focusing on allowing applications to transfer from one server or device to another—portability. They also plan to improve on speech technology and on the integration of disparate devices.

A good portion of this will be accomplished by their focus on improving Java performance on mobile devices. In 2004, they plan to offer new extension services to help evolve phones as well as other embedded electronics into more powerful devices.

You also can expect to see IBM Pervasive become a key participant in working with smart card technology in 2004. Look for them to work with developers to push implementations into finance, security, and health care.

Over at Microsoft

One of the companies that has been among the most vocal about some of their 2004 plans is Microsoft. With a couple of key releases planned for this year, we'll see what actually happens. With a speech server due to release in 2004, you can expect that Microsoft will be even more vocal!

For developers, the product with the biggest potential impact is the release of the next version of SQL Server. Code named "Yukon," this version is slated for the second half of the year. As the first release in nearly four years, the changes are promised to be big.

Coming along at the same time as this new database release is the third version of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework. Code named "Whidbey," this new version of Visual Studio .NET will be packed with a number of new features, including support for the additions in the proposed C# 2.0 programming language.

Over at Nokia

Nokia has been making serious inroads in the mobile/wireless development arena. With Java being the predominant development tool for mobile devices, it is no surprise that the big release that Nokia is planning is for the Series 40 Developer Platform 2.0 with Java support. This is in response to the volume of devices that all support MIDP 2.0 and the three key JSRs: Wireless Messaging API, the Multimedia API, and the Bluetooth API.

Over at Sybase

Over at Sybase, there is also a number of plans for 2004. One of the more interesting things to watch for in 2004 is the next release of PowerBuilder, which will be released with new features. Notable among the features are Unicode support and an XML Web DataWindow.

With the growth in the mobile/wireless market, it is no surprise that, along with the release of PowerBuilder, there are releases of Pocket PowerBuilder planned. Sybase expects to have both a minor and a major release of this product in 2004. The minor release is due in the first half of the year. This first release will expand on Pocket PowerBuilder's existing feature set to include support for HP's Biometric API as well as Symbol's barcode scanner API. Later in the year, Sybase will follow with the major release. This will include support for Smart Phones. More importantly, it will support the .NET Compact Framework and ADO.NET.

Although still "under wraps," Sybase is also planning to move into the .NET developer community in other areas as well. A new, unnamed product will be released that brings the DataWindow to .NET developers.

Finally, Sybase is planning a new version of Sybase PowerDesigner.

Sybase's iAnywhere division announced the unveiling of a new M-Business Server that is expected in 2004. You also can plan for a number of enhancements to the SQL Anywhere Studio.

Over at Sun

Over at Sun, or at least with the Java Community Process, you can look for a new version of Java in 2004. Java 2, Version 1.5, code named "Tiger," is due to be released in 2004. This new version of Java is expected to offer a number of improvements, including changes in the language and syntax as well as to the library APIs. New APIs include a Java Platform Profiling Architecture, an Application Isolation API, monitoring and management APIs for the JVM, and more. You can also expect to see optimizations and fixes in a number of areas. This includes faster garbage collection, reduced startup times for the virtual machine, and better usage of memory.

You also can expect to see much more support for XML and Web Services. This includes an update to the Java API for XML (JAXP), XML digital signature APIs, and XML digital encrypting APIs.

Over at Compuware

In 2004, Compuware's big release will be several enhancements to Compuware OptimalJ. This product generates working applications directly from visual models using the power of patterns and model-driven application design. Compuware plans to introduce features that will extend the benefits of the model-driven (MDPB) development approach to other areas of the product lifecycle, including the testing and maintenance phases. The company also will continue to extend their integration with industry-leading Web application servers and IDEs to enable more developers of all skill levels to build enterprise applications using J2EE.

Continuing the Terminology Confusion

Expect 2004 to continue the issues that arise when multiple companies use the same terminology. A number of terms will continue to evolve and change in meaning. Additionally, a number of terms will be used in different contexts.

2004 will be the year of the "Generic." Expect to see Generics in both C# 2.0 and the new release of Java ("Tiger"). Generics allow you to use a single piece of code with multiple data types. More importantly, the code is used as if it were created for that type. The underlying way in which generics works in C# and Java, however, differ. These differences are just one of the many subtleties that are sure to cause some programmers grief.

In Conclusion...

These are just a few of the companies in the industry, and, as you can see, there is a lot planned for 2004. This ranges from new versions of a number of major products such as PowerBuilder and Microsoft's SQL Server database to more movement into mobile/wireless development to the release of new versions of two key programming languages (C# and Java).

Of course, one thing that is delivered every year from software companies, but never effective planned for, is delays. Right now, there are some exciting technologies planned for 2004. Only time will tell which are doomed to be part of an article on products in 2005.

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