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From the Editor: Java vs. Microsoft, act II

The Java revolution brought some very good times to IT organizations looking to build applications that can run on multiple platforms -- long an unfulfilled dream despite long-ago promises of technologies like CORBA and messaging.

In the mid-1990s, the Java programming language became the hot technology for the world's top programmers and the Java 2 Extended Edition (J2EE) promised to let corporate developers build even the most complex applications to gain their companies a competitive edge. At first, top suppliers like Sun and IBM looked at Java and J2EE as ammunition to take on and perhaps beat Microsoft in the battle for everyman developers.

But while J2EE did work very well in certain high-technology-savvy organizations, it could never appeal to the programming masses because of its complexity. The low end belonged to Microsoft Visual Studio and would continue to belong to Microsoft, or so expert observers thought.

Over the past few months, a new breed of Java tools has seeped into the marketplace as toolmakers like Sun and BEA seek to capture some of that traditionally Microsoft developer community. At the same time, Microsoft is touting the .NET version of its Visual Studio toolset, an implementation that observers note has added significant complexity to the technology.

In our Cover Story this month ("In search of a gentler Java") contributor Colleen Frye takes a look at some of these tools and whether IT development organizations are ready to start building simpler, low-end Java applications for multiple platforms rather than using the Microsoft tools for just Windows. Will the Microsoft vs. Java battles ever end?

And, of course, our year-end issue also features a look back at several of the key happenings of 2003, some good and some not-so-good. The economy may have been sour, the IT development zone saw some jobs travel overseas, and hackers caused some significant problems, but we still saw the emergence of some interesting technologies, as well as some encouraging signs for the future.

But Nicholas Carr's critique, "IT Doesn't Matter," in the May issue of the Harvard Business Review was perhaps the most talked about happening in 2003. More important than the criticism from the corporate IT and IT supplier world, the most important result was the debate Carr started. You and your suppliers have been forced to explain what you do, why you do it and why it's vital to your organizations. And that's a good thing.

About the Author

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

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