Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Profits-strapped Sun continues decade-long pitch to developers on Java dominance

Leading up the the JavaOne developers conference, Sun Microsystems posted an embarrassing quarterly profit loss, is making OpenSolaris more open than ever, bringing the OpenSolaris platform value to the Amazon Web Services cloud, and is still using variations on the projectile theme to send T-shirts into the international crowd of eager Java developers.

Here in San Francisco on Tuesday, the 12th annual JavaOne developers conference opened, still drawing throngs of the Java devoted. It's clear from the gathering that Java tools, standards, middleware, runtime instances and distributed computing methods still dominate the non-Microsoft enterprise IT landscape.

Even as many other innovations over the past decade have encroached on and often out-delivered on the "write once, run anywhere" mantra, Java has done great things for the ability to develop and deploy complex, mission critical applications that leverage assets and resources across multiple tiers of computing. The n-tier computing model based on standards of interoperability is alive and well.

Java continues to play a binding role among hundreds of the most impactful IT vendors and their products -- from IBM to Oracle to SAP to developer consultancies of one busy person. Yet the arenas in which Java, now an open source reference model stack, dominates has is limits. Java's role in the future growth areas of Internet and mobile computing may well be as a foundational but necessary pivotal component.

The growing arenas of SOA, Web 2.0, cloud computing, webby applications design/delivery, OSGi container flexibility, PHP, Ruby on Rails, Adobe and Silverlight RIA/cross-browser development/deployment -- all are moving beyond the Java orbit.

At the same time, Sun has aligned itself to Java so much it recently changed its stock ticker to JAVA. Sun certainly helped create the Java community and value -- with a lot of help -- but then also alienated many Java contributors and market drivers as Sun sought to dominate Java and to mashup Java's success onto Sun.

So far, some 13 years in, Java remains consistently more successful than Sun.

And there was plenty more evidence at this year's show of the always-interesting relationship between Sun and Java. Sun's Executive Vice President for Software Rich Green, in his keynote, said that the Amazon's Kindle device is powered by Java, even the store that the content is bought from, uses Java. And we were given a demo of Kindle's prowess by Ian Freed, vice president of Kindle at Amazon.

Interesting to note that neither the device, nor the cloud services supporting the Kindle's content sales and syndication, comes from Sun as a business. But the software was developed on Java. So, Java=1.0, Sun=0.1.

Rikko Sakaguchi, senior vice president of Sony Ericsson, showed some neat mobile handset devices running cool video and media. Java's role is core to the handset and content and applications. Java helps make the software run on the device, and encourages partners to develop content and apps. "Java powers the device," said Green. But again Java and Sony Ericsson=1.0, Sun=0.1.

We were also showed a demo of a Facebook widget, Connected Life, that at first crashed, perhaps due to Moscone Center's Internet connectivity. But then it came back up. The widget was written in JavaFX, a Sun scripting language and runtime. The demo showed that the widget can run in a browser or as a rich Internet application using Java runtime, but that crashed too. And the widget can run on mobile devices too.

JavaFX also allows for video to run, 2D and 3D. There was some nice eye candy, but nothing you can't get with Adobe AIR/Open Screen, Silverlight, or QuickTime, among other RIA approaches.

So Java still helps "write once, run anywhere." Facebook and widget writers with Java=1.0, Sun=0.4 (if it sells the tools and licenses the Java runtime, and perhaps sells some servers to Facebook).

JavaFX Mobile will be forthcoming (spring 2009)to allow one runtime across the mobile and desktop tiers (fall 2008), said Green. A demo showed a mobile device running the Android emulator running Connected Life. Showing that JavaFX-written applications runs in many places, including mobile phones supporting Java.

Sun took some heat last year when it introduced JavaFX, but the "create-once, present anywhere" value is clearly a priority for Sun, as well as for Adobe, Microsoft and others. Sun will try and leverage the Java runtime installed base to be a player in this market, but it will be a real tussle given the competition

Glassfish kernal container at 98 kB will also support a wide swath of device types, said Green. He said Glassfish downloads are robust and global. Recent MySQL addition to Sun is getting 65,000 downloads per day, said Green.

NetBeans ecosystem is growing year over year by 44 percent, based on active users, said Green. And Java ships in the prominent Linux distributions, including Ubuntu and Red Hat, he said.

Sun's Project Hydrazine offers a platform for mashable services in the cloud, for "find, merge, deploy and share," said Green. It's due in later 2009. Another project, Project Insight, involves managing actions of users and data for ad placement.

Sounds like Sun is building an ad delivery platform, or at least to manage the meta data that supports ad placements. So Sun is competing with Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! on ad infrastructure?

Sun CEO and President Jonathan Schwartz said battle is brewing for development platform for next generations of devices. "No matter where they are, Java will reach them," said Schwartz.

He likes the idea that apps running in a browser can be dragged off of the browser by the end user and onto the desktop of devicetop, thanks to Java on the device.

"And it will all be free," said Schwartz. So again, Java=1.0, Sun=0.x.

Neil Young joined the Sun executives on stage. Neil likes Blue-ray, and plans to deliver a multimedia anthology content offering via Blu-ray from his illustrious and prolific 45-year career.

"Just recently we've been able to bring this forward, ... it's really quite an experience," said Young, referring to using Blu-ray and Java, over past technologies, including DVDs.

And Java runs on Blu-ray devices! So Java+Neil Young=1.0, Sun=0.x.

Sun continues to try and define x as a major means to drive its future growth and profits. Let's hope that the past is not prologue on that account.

JustSystems boosts acceptance of XBRL with donation of intellectual property rights

JustSystems said Monday that it is contributing its intellectual property rights for its invention of extensible business reporting language (XBRL) to XBRL International, the standards body responsible for overseeing the language's specification.

JustSystems is making the move as part of its campaign to help organizations adopt XBRL, the XML -based standard for communicating business and financial information. The company made the announcement at XBRL International Conference in Eindhoven, Netherlands.

Under the terms of this contribution, JustSystems will not assert patent rights to the XBRL formatting linkbase, although the company will maintain invention rights. The developer community will be able to freely apply intellectual property and all documentation.

The XBRL formatting linkbase provides a standards-based method for defining how XBRL data — which is complex and largely unreadable by people — is rendered to documents, web pages, wireless devices and other applications. By mapping data elements to specific formatting conventions, the formatting linkbase helps organizations to ensure the consistent display of XBRL data across multiple output formats and delivery channels.

Jake Sorofman, senior vice president of marketing and business development for JustSystems, said in a press release:

“Now that XBRL has matured and regulators such as the U.S. SEC are gearing up for a mandate, organizations must take aggressive action to understand the implications and applications of XBRL within their domain. With XBRL momentum building, our campaign is designed to help organizations jumpstart their XBRL initiatives and stay ahead of the curve.”

I recently produced a podcast with Sorofman, in which we discussed the importance and future of structured documents and authoring tools. You can listen to the podcast here, and read the transcript here. [Disclosure: JustSystems is a sponsor of BriefingDirect podcasts.]

Genuitec marks progress with two milestone releases of MyEclipse 6.5 products

Genuitec, the MyEclipse IDE vendor, has marked development progress with two interim releases. The Flower Mound, Tex., firm has announced availability of the initial milestone releases of MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench 6.5 and MyEclipse 6.5 Blue Edition, a tool suite for WebSphere developers.

The Enterprise Workbench release includes an upgrade of MyEclipse Spring tools, which provides integration of the latest Spring framework 2.5 libraries. Also in the release are:

  • JAX-WS 2.1 Web services
  • Support for JSR-168 portlets
  • Improved JSF and Facelet visual page design and coding features
  • New web.xml editor; and
  • Updated ICEFaces JSF component support.

The M1 release of the Blue Edition offers project migration support from IBM Rational Application Developer and WebSphere Application Developer into MyEclipse.

With the new release, developers can configure, launch, and manage multiple WebSphere profiles simultaneously from within the IDE, allowing the developers to develop, deploy, and debug enterprise Java applications to any number of customized WebSphere profiles.

In another announcement, Genuitec has released the Pulse 2.1, which allows users to manage and configure Eclipse-based products. Among the product enhancements in this release are:

  • Desktop Express, which allows ISVs to deliver software to their customers
  • Enhancements to Pulse Freelance, which allows users to add and share plug-ins to customize their catalog and share workspace settings.

Last February, I did a podcast with Maher Masri, president of Genuitec on his companies Eclipse-based tools and the migration path to WebSphere. You can read the transcript here. [Disclosure: Genuitec is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Last January, I wrote about the Pulse product and its implications for the development and deployment market:

I also expect that Genuitec will move aggressively into “development and deployment as a service” offerings in 2008. There’s no reason why a Pulse set of services could not evolve into a general platform for myriad developer resources and increasingly tools/IDEs as a service. Indeed, Genuitec is finding wider acceptance by developers of developing and deploying in the cloud concepts and benefits.

The milestone release of Workbench 6.5 is currently available from the MyEclipse site for a free trial. The milestone release of Blue Edition is available for a free trial from the Blue Edition site. The subscription price is $149, and those with current subscriptions will receive all upgrades and support at no additional cost. The general release of both products is scheduled for June of this year.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What MicroNoHoo means for enterprises

Now that Yahoo gets to remain a stand-alone company for a few more months, you may think that a battle royale between Microsoft and Google over the online advertising and social networking/communications services future has little bearing on enterprises. But you'd be wrong.

Here are seven reasons why:
  • As we discussed Saturday on an emergency Gillmor Gang, this cloud wars business is largely about audience size, reach, and details on consumer needs/preferences. This audience intelligence value can be sold to advertisers, but also to enterprises, retailers and marketers as they seek to deliver their brands, goods and services more efficiently to users/buyers everywhere, every digital way. The cloud compute-based, automated, bid-auction-driven, buyer-seller matchmaker powerhouses will be necessary partners for most enterprises. In other words, you will be doing business with the top one or two cloud leaders.
  • Nearly all enterprises and SMBs will continue to have large Microsoft product footprints in their organizations for at least several years. You want such a critical supplier to remain focused and fiscally healthy and to invest in current and future products -- or you have a Microsoft extraction problem. If Microsoft goes tits-up online, it will be a weaker company and therefore a weaker supplier. If Microsoft needs to spend lavishly on labor, acquisitions, technology and marketing to get to number one or number two online, it will be distracted from its business-focused businesses. In other words, enterprises spending on Microsoft now subsidize Microsoft's future needs to go cloud-strong, and perhaps enterprise software soft. You'll need to pay Microsoft on premises now so that you can pay Microsoft online later.
  • As a hedge on the future, Microsoft is creating online strategy sets that can satisfy consumer online markets while also bringing purely online and "software plus services" hybrid services to SMBs and enterprises. How well these services compete with other offerings from other cloud-based services providers will determine how well these services perform for you as a company. In other words, your future in leveraging Microsoft's path from on-premises software provider to services provider hinges on how well Microsoft does online, which depends on audience and advertising/services (see no. 1). It will at some point behoove Microsoft to push you to its online business services, probably by making on-premises stuff expensive. But you will have more choice over your online suppliers than your did on your PC and department server supplier.
  • An emboldened and stronger Google, resulting from a hobbled Yahoo and a runner-up Microsoft, means that more partners and applications will emerge around the Google ecology. We'll see more deals with Google from Salesforce.com, IBM, Apple, mobile handset providers, mobile Internet device makers, and probably the major media companies (lacking a choice). This just makes Google stronger, more diversified, able to spend $1 billion per quarter on capital investments, able to woo the best engineers, and a darling of online start-ups and entrepreneurial developers and content creators. This means Google is not only a channel for enterprises to reach consumers, it increasingly becomes the provider or channel for more and more business services to more types of businesses in more global locations.
  • Microsoft is becoming more open. In order to catch up to Google and other ad-driven cloud compute-based providers, probably without Yahoo's audience clout, Microsoft will need to become even more open on standards. That's good news for enterprises. Microsoft is loosening up its strangle-hold on enterprises through its self-imposed standards. More importantly, Microsoft is giving its developers more choice. This is a slippery slope, because at some point Microsoft gets so open that the stickiness and lock-ins lessen so that the Windows runtime (and associated license sales) can be swapped out for open source or virtualized runtimes. Developers can pick and choose what Microsoft stuff they want to use, and then seek cheaper alternatives. To seduce developers and start-ups from Google, Microsoft must continue to get open in more ways, aiding the open source evolution and maturity, and giving enterprise more choices and lower total IT costs.
  • Requirements on the PC change and shift. As Google and Yahoo drag Microsoft into a more pure-Web-play, and seek to offer attractive online alternatives to "software plus services," enterprises can re-evaluate their hardware spend and requirements on the desktop. Apple will also offer compelling alternatives for the full Windows PC experience. So enterprises, already resisting the hardware upgrade costs and help desk hit from moving to Vista, may benefit from Microsoft's need to "go Webby" because their hardware requirements will amount to supporting a browser mostly, at least for some users like call centers. This also opens up the market for use of more thin clients, as well as more use of desktop-as-a-service and virtualized app delivery services. Dumb terminals are not dumb if you need to pay for them and support them. By backing off of client-server, Microsoft will cut your PC device total costs. And no more audit threats!
  • Microsoft's stock performance in the cloud era will depend less on its business revenues and more on how well it competes against Google, Yahoo et al. In the post Yahoo acquisition saga (volume 1), Microsoft may well see its value as a corporation decrease, even as recessionary pressures build against growth rates for its consumer and business product lines. Microsoft could have fewer resources to devote to its enterprise businesses (see above). At the same time, IBM, Oracle, Red Hat, and HP are firing well on their enterprise business cylinders, and they may see Microsoft blood in the enterprise sales waters. As an enterprise buyer, ask now and for the foreseeable for discounts and better terms from those enterprise vendors that compete directly with Microsoft. Microsoft's sales reps may not be able to respond like they used to. Microsoft's enterprise competitors will seek to take some oxygen from the field in the next several quarters. This is good news for enterprises, and SMBs.
So there are a number of reasons for enterprises and IT departments to be aware of and concerned about what goes on between Microsoft and Yahoo, and -- most importantly -- Microsoft and Google.