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Killer Clouds

Wednesday, June 18, 1997 by Dave Winer.

According Sun, Java is both a programming language and an operating system. 100 Percent Pure is their attempt to enforce the bond.

Yesterday Microsoft went on a press tour to roll out a new thing called J/Direct. They say that 100 Percent Pure is the road to developer bankruptcy. Java is just a programming language for making Windows apps.

"This is a trap," says Sun. "It defeats the purpose of Java."

Yes, that's true.

Could they have possibly not seen it coming?

A brief history Permalink to A brief history

Languages bound to operating systems tend to break apart.

Unix had C, but now you can write in C for any OS. Pascal had the UCSD P-System. The Mac started life as a Pascal operating system, without UCSD compatibility, but eventually it could be programmed using any popular programming language, including C and soon Java.

Bottom line -- if an OS becomes popular, it gets every language. If a language gets popular, you can use it to make apps on any OS.

The cross-platform story Permalink to The cross-platform story

Java runs much better on Windows NT 4.0 than it does on a Mac. There goes the entire cross-platform story. We warned the Java people that this was a fatal flaw, over and over, when there was still time to fix the problem. There was a total disconnect -- they saw the Mac as a dead platform, but missed that its revival was central to their purpose.

No doubt they plan to create another platform, other than the Mac, to be the platform they cross to, but to most developers that's irrelevant, unless they have lots of money coming in. Most Java developers are as poor as any other kind of developer. They're hungry, they want money, they need money, now, there's no time to wait.

And you don't have to be an ace historian to predict which base of software is going to be more interesting. Cash-fat developers create flat software because they have to spend more time in meetings pleasing stupid bosses than the leaner variety that want to ship working code and beat their competitors in the market.

You need a cloud Permalink to You need a cloud

It's really about killer clouds, not killer apps.

The Mac gained traction not when PageMaker shipped, but when lines of software buyers started showing up at ComputerWare in Palo Alto. They were mixing up all kinds of neat gadgets and desk accessories, not just the big apps -- Excel and Word, PhotoShop, Suitcase, Eudora, WebSTAR and Netscape.

Even the Apple II, a platform with a very short life, had more than VisiCalc to drive its popularity. Same with the character-based IBM PC that had Lotus 1-2-3, WordStar, dBASE and Sidekick.

What's the killer app of Windows? I think there's a clue. No single app made Windows happen. That's the charm of Windows, a very old operating system that ages reasonably gracefully.

So, even if one of the big-money Java developers produces something exciting, that isn't enough to make a platform. You need a cloud of killer apps, not just one, a new wave of fun and depth and style to get people excited.

I think clearly Microsoft gets this. I think just as clearly Sun does not.

Dave Winer

© Copyright 1994-2004 Dave Winer. Last update: 2/5/07; 10:50:05 AM Pacific. "There's no time like now."