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Client-side Java ain't dead yet

Near the start of the Java revolution (still less than 10 years past), the technology garnered strong backing for what many saw as a possibility for revolutionizing the desktop. Early on, one heard plaudits from technologists for its ability to create Java applets for downloading from Web pages to run automatically in browsers. Java was touted as a client-side marvel, but myriad performance issues slowed its march to the IT computer room.

The browser capabilities even attracted Microsoft to Java at the start, as its engineers built a Java Virtual Machine that most agreed offered better performance than any offered by Java creator Sun at the time. And as a bonus, Java was a language that could also build standalone applications, as well as add pretty pictures to Web sites.

But as Rick Moore, founder of consultancy Geckobot Information Services and Technologies, points out in ''Sun hasn't set yet on Java applets,'' the strength of the Java language has evolved over the years to the server side, as engineers worked to overcome performance and other issues.

Java's client-side benefits were slowly killed off with Microsoft's decision in the late 1990s to mostly abandon its support of Java, instead turning to its own C# language and the .NET platform. Such moves by Microsoft, along with the emergence of Macromedia's Flash technology, worked to stop easy downloads of Java applets into Microsoft's popular Windows Internet Explorer browser, effectively taking Java out of widespread desktop use. Even Sun, while filing lawsuits to force Microsoft to support Java, has little data on applets on its Web site, and does little to hype its capabilities.

Yet Moore contends that reports of the death of Java applets and client-side Java are premature. In some cases, developers are still far better off using Java applets over Microsoft technologies, despite having to download and install a plug-in from Sun. Java applets incorporate all the benefits of the Java language, including portability, API libraries and powerful development and security capabilities. His arguments will make real sense to builders of complex corporate applications.

In our Cover Story this month, ''XML meets the data warehouse,'' Editor-at-Large Jack Vaughan looks at how the unlikely pairing of Web services and business intelligence also deserves a second look from corporate development managers. A variety of experts and developers tell Vaughan that despite the hard work required, a plan for moving warehouse data to XML could provide significant long-term benefits.

Best regards,
Michael W. Bucken

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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