Java has a big lead in Web services

Users appear to be sharply divided over which Web service to use, and a recent poll shows a preference for Java over .Net

Web services are not just a hype by suppliers looking for new sales; they will take off in 2002, and the majority will be based on Java rather than Microsoft's .Net alternative, according to a poll of enterprise IT professionals run by ZDNet UK's Tech Update channel.

More than two-thirds of the respondents (69.5 percent), at the time of writing, plan to deliver some applications by Web services by the end of 2002, with a large majority of those (nearly half the total sample, at the time of writing) planning to use Java. At the time of writing, only 21.5 percent plan to use Microsoft .Net, less than the figure (23.5 percent) planning to use neither.

The idea of delivering access to business applications through Web technology instead of proprietary terminals has been gathering strength over recent years. Java technology, launched by Sun and backed by IBM and BEA, has been the first into the market, with Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) designed for business use.

Microsoft's .Net alternative has arrived more recently. Both rivals make use of XML to communicate the structured information that applications use, but they have different emphases.

The response goes some way to answer critics who have said that the whole Web services idea is no more than a rehash of earlier efforts at distributed computing. Some have predicted that take-up will be disappointing, especially as the recession has forced end-user companies to cut back on new projects. High user interest at a time when budgets are tight suggests that users are ready to believe vendors' claims that Web services will deliver needed functionality more cost-effectively than other methods.

Although there are efforts to ensure compatibility between the two methods, it appears that users are dividing into separate camps. One respondent asked why we wanted to know which technology they would use as "surely the point is that it doesn't matter." The evidence is that it does matter: the group intending to use both is small (6.8 percent).

However, it is still early days for Web services, and Microsoft has many cards to play yet. It will establish its languages and interfaces as standards as far as possible, both through market share (by bundling .Net components in its client software), and through formal standards bodies (the C# language was ratified by the European standards group ECMA this month).

From our results, it seems that Java proponents are succeeding in establishing their technology in UK businesses: however, Microsoft has built its way to the centre of businesses using a desktop toehold before.

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