News and commentary from the cross-platform scripting community.
Mail Starting 4/3/97
Regarding your column about Sun and Java, you're absolutely right about Sun's attitude - in order for Java to succeed it must be set free. If Tim BL has decided to license HTML to a few software companies, chances are the Web probably wouldn't exist. The ubiquity of HTML has allowed the ubiquity of web pages - if HTML had been an expensive proprietary solution then the army of millions out there who can make web pages would have been stuck. If Sun desperately wants to make money out of Java, then they should be concentrating on cheap development tools, foundation classes, windowing toolkits and the like that would allow the grass roots user easy access to Java. Sun should also be actively encouraging other OEMs to create JavaStation clones in order that Sun don't end up like Apple, who came round to cloning a few years too late.
From: email@example.com (Sajid Mohammed);
Sent at 4/4/97; 3:26:34 PM;
Before I go, do you think that the combination of the new 300Mhz/500Mhz/SMP Macs and the failure of Microsoft to deliver Win97 this year could prove to be a valuable opportunity for Apple to regain some lost ground? Also, is it true that most PCs are not Year 2000 proof wheras all Macs are? If it is true, then surely that's a good selling point. I'm fairly convinced that Apple's current marketing efforts are useless - some of Microsoft's greatness lies in good marketing.
I hope you saw the announcements and the press release of the JFC. It took a little bit, but with some gentle prodding Sun has caught on to the toolbox thing. I think you'll like what you see in a couple of months.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ray Ryan);
Sent at 4/3/97; 1:05:24 PM;
One of several "former Lighthouse engineers"
At JavaOne yesterday, I saw one thing that was more important than anything I've seen in computing in the past 4 years.
From: email@example.com (Stephen Bove);
Sent at 4/3/97; 12:19:20 PM;
OS-9 + Java =
OS-9 is the operating system on the new IBM "Network Computer". And guess what?...Microware, the company behind OS-9 has ported a Java VM to the OS-9 platform!!!
OS-9 is more widespread than anyone I know realizes. It's in my pager. It will soon be in cell phones from Uniden and Ericssen (with email and webbrowsing built in!). It will soon challenge GeoWorks on PDAs. It owns the set-top box market. Most importantly, with Java, anybody can write cool apps for it.
Perhaps the best thing about OS-9 and Microware's VM is that both are designed to run out of *hardware* - instant power-up and re-boot. The whole framework is also design for "invisible" versioning (meaning upgrades happen in the background without the user knowing about them). Ahhhhh. Sounds so refreshing.
The more I think about this, the more I like it. OS-9 + Java = Freedom?
Their stock is in the toilet (all time lows of $6). Motorola and four other institutional investors recently increased their stakes to above 5% (the 13Gs were filed last month. Sounds like Larry Ellison or maybe Bill G. himslef ought to buy this little company sometime soon (total current market cap is barely $100M). Check them out. - sb
This analogy, of owning English, is interesting to me.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Adam Rice);
Sent at 4/3/97; 11:20:49 AM;
I'm a Japanese-English translator. One of the frustrations a lot of J-E translators face is the Japanese client who insists on revising their work to fit its bizarre ideas of how English should sound (which probably accounts for the style of the owners manual accompanying whatever widgets you have from Panasonic). This bothers a lot of J-E translators, partly because we feel that we, as native speakers, do "own English," (I have heard translators use exactly that phrase), and partly because we don't like to see our work butchered.
So I can certainly understand why Sun might feel proprietary about a language it invented, and sympathize too. Of course, if they really want it to be a standard, they have to let go. They can't have it both ways.
Should Sun set Java free? I think so, but not just yet. (They have already submitted to standards committee, but that arguing the details of that is a different discussion.) Java is young (it has really been less than 1.5 years since its initial release and look at the momentum it has gained) and has rough edges that need smoothing and gaps that need filling in. Standards committees move very slowly (look at the progress of ansi c++ as an example). I think if Sun sets Java free at this point we will end up with a bifurcation at best, several incompatible implementations with vastly different functionality at worst. I think there is a time for Java to be free, but I don't think that time is right now. Java, IMHO, still needs a parent; one that can move quickly to polish the edges and fill in the gaps. (One could certainly argue whether or not Sun is a suitable parent - I won't touch that issue here.)
From: email@example.com (Jim Correia);
Sent at 4/3/97; 12:29:31 PM;
I think you're terribly wrong about the Java thing.
From: H.Wallnoefer@infosys.tuwien.ac.at (Hannes Wallnoefer);
Sent at 4/3/97; 6:50:50 PM;
If Sun would have let go Java any sooner than now, would we have Object Serialization, Remote Method Invocation and other all the other badly needed features introduced in JDK 1.1? It is only for the huge acceptance of JDK 1.1 that Microsoft implements these things in Java 2.0 runtime - 6 months ago they said they were not sure if they felt like implementing JDK 1.1.
I can understand that you don't like Sun. The thing they try to cover up is that Microsoft is making way more money than they do, try to look like winners. So what? You don't need to have a cozy relationship with Sun to love working with Java. At least I don't.
The Java equivalent to the Toolbox are the standard Java packages. I think they form a pretty powerfull set.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (John Jensen);
Sent at 4/3/97; 7:13:44 AM;
Re:"Toolbox and English"
The java.lang package provides the basics, with storage types like String and runtime objects like Thread and Compiler (which server as a placeholder for a JIT).
The java.awt package supplies the basic GUI elements, and I think maps pretty well with the original Mac Toolbox.
The java.io package provides platform independent file and stream io.
There are about a dozen java.x packages that provide a lot of intersting tools (like java.rmi which does Remote Method Invocation).
Java and English are a little bit different, because one was invented by one person in one place and the other was evolved by millions over generations. One qualifies as intellectual property and one does not.
As it happens, Sun is working with the standards organizations to sponsor Java as an open standard. I certainly encourage that effort, but I would feel a little silly demanding it.
I agree with you that languages should migrate to standards organizations so that the mindshare of many creative individuals can be amplified. In reality, companies often retain ownership at least of dialects of a language, such as Apollo Pascal (and where are they now?) or Visual Basic. Given this, I'd like your comments on the following two questions:
From: don_wakefield@MENTORG.COM (Don Wakefield);
Sent at 4/3/97; 8:17:51 AM;
1) Are proprietary extensions, by which a company adds value (in their and maybe their customers' view), part of the overall dynamic advantage of public language standards, or are they harmful to it?
2) You've put in much thought and design work on Frontier's scripting language. As it serves a niche of powerful scripters and programmers, the likelihood of others requesting you to release it to a standards body is small, but it would be consonant with my understanding of your thesis. How would you feel about placing your scripting language in a standards body's ownership? About them making decisions as to how the language should change? About other vendors releasing 'Visual Frontier'? ;^)~
I'm not trying to claim you are wrong. I just want to see how this would all affect you personally. By the way, my company has no interest in promoting corporate ownership of programming languages. Thanks.