Microsoft & .NET.NETRinging in the New: A Make or Break Year

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It’s a new year, but what change will the flipping of a digit have on our industry?

David Fox

Whenever a new piece of hardware, operating system, programming language, service, or technology concept is tap-dancing on the stage of hype, the only question that developers should be asking themselves is, “Will this make my software faster, stronger, better?” If a bit of hype truly adds to the joy, then it’s all worth it and more power to it. Unfortunately, more often than not, hype detracts.

So let’s look ahead to some hype hotspots for 2002.

I believe this is an important year for Java. Maybe even a make or break kind of year. It is clearly a year of many firsts.

It is the first year that Microsoft has released an operating system and Web browser without Java support. Whether this is Microsoft playing its worn Evil Monopolist role or Sun’s own hubris is open for debate. But the fact of the matter is that this will make it much more difficult for companies to get Java applets or applications into the hands of average PC users.

Much of Java’s promise is aimed at a network-centric future that may be farther off than many people originally thought.

This is also the first year that Microsoft has an enterprise technology, .NET, capable of competing with J2EE in terms of functionality and ease — if not cross-platform openness. Due to launch in February, many companies are already being wooed to Microsoft’s side. Can J2EE hold its own?

On the micro side, many of us were expecting a slew of Java-enabled mobile phones by now. So far, only Motorola-Nextel and Siemens have really delivered, and only in a limited capacity. While the Siemens SL451 has a Game API that allows for decent graphics and interesting effects, the Motorola i85s and other phones haven’t really made Java powerful enough to be much of a value-add. More powerful phones and J2ME profiles have been promised. But we’ll see.

Additionally, the promise of third-generation (3G) broadband wireless connections now looks like it’ll take longer than anyone expected. Using mobile devices to tap into networks just isn’t feasible en masse right now, with latencies of over a second and painfully narrow bandwidths.

Most importantly, this is the first year, in quite a while, that technology stocks and companies are hurting for cash. Every other word coming out of every CEO’s mouth is “revenues.” Whether or not you believe in using the word “recession,” tech companies and software companies in particular are going to have to prove themselves like never before. The days of big, spurious research and development departments — the place where most of the fun stuff happened — are no longer with us.

The slowdown in the economy also will affect the speed in which better networks, processors, and other hardware will be introduced, sold, and developed. Pessimism becomes self-fulfilling as various technologies let each other down. Much of Java’s promise is aimed at a network-centric future that may be farther off than many people originally thought.

Most of 2002’s Java hype will likely center around JavaOne. This conference is a sensible deadline for companies to release their new development tools, hardware products, and APIs. Most important, this is usually the time when Sun releases the next version of J2ME, J2EE, and J2SE. This year, the conference has been moved up from June to March, giving companies even less time to hone their hype.

Let’s all set our sights for March, then. And hope that Java’s year ahead is full of survival, sense, and pleasant surprises — not empty promises.

About the Author

David Fox is the author of numerous books and articles about cyberculture and technology.

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