What should Microsoft do, now that Java is GPL'd?

What should Microsoft do, now that Java is GPL'd?

Summary: Given the long-standing rivalry between .Net and Java, one would assume that Sun's decision to release Java under the GPL would likely result in some kind of a reaction from the Redmondians. But what shou

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Given the long-standing rivalry between .Net and Java, one would assume that Sun's decision to release Java under the GPL would likely result in some kind of a reaction from the Redmondians.

But exactly what Microsoft could, should and will do, if anything, to counteract Sun's November 13 announcement, is murky.

Maybe Microsoft will create a language to go head-to-head with Java. Oh wait. The company did that already, with C#. (Anyone else remember good old "Project Cool"?)

Or perhaps Microsoft will open source its .Net framework? While the company already released .Net under its own Shared Source license, as Windows Now blogger Robert McLaws notes, I think it would be a stretch to expect Microsoft to go the final mile and release .Net under some type of bona fide open-source arrangement.

(However, as some Softies will no doubt point out, the Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/e) technology -- which Microsoft is expected to release publicly to testers some time soon -- includes the Mini Common Language Runtime (CLR), which will be able to run on non-Windows platforms, including Linux. Isn't that close enough? I'd say it's an apples to oranges comparison, but I thought I'd incude it just to cover all the bases.)

Maybe we'll see Microsoft and Sun pull a Novell and agree to release each other from patent claims, allowing developers to build atop each other's frameworks and embed .Net and Java everywhere and anywhere without fear of legal repercussions? Seems kind of doubtful, too.

(Thankfully,) I'm out of ideas. Your turn to weigh in.

[poll id=2]

Other write-in candidates? 

 

 

Topic: Open Source

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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22 comments
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  • No action needed.

    Microsoft has competition to Java already in .Net. It's difficult to think of anything developers will be able to do with Java that would change the competition to Java's advantage. But the disadvantages in reduced central control seem obvious.

    If you were making predictions ...

    There were at one time 3 million Java developers and 3 million .Net developers. What do you think will happen to these numbers?

    Will anything happen to Java to which Microsoft will have to respond?

    How will Sun be affected by the loss of Java revenues?
    (I don't know how much revenue is involved. But for a company already losing money, any loss is potentially significant.)
    Anton Philidor
    • I agrtee, just step back and let Sun bleed to death.

      Nothing more is needed.
      No_Ax_to_Grind
      • Except...

        Sun was supposed to be a bulwark against IBM. The money paid to Sun was probably wasted.

        You thought there were opportunities at the time. Change your mind?
        Anton Philidor
    • Obviousness

      [i]But the disadvantages in reduced central control seem obvious.[/i]

      Yes, the advantages of central control made the Soviet economy the wonder of the world.

      [i]How will Sun be affected by the loss of Java revenues?[/i]

      There weren't any -- the transaction costs exceeded the income.

      There's a reason that small software products have pretty much vanished from the market -- they cost more to sell than the market will pay for them. It's not that they've lost value, it's that by the time you subtract the transaction costs of charging customers for what they're worth, there's nothing left.

      That leaves the question of how that still-valuable software gets produced and distributed.
      Yagotta B. Kidding
      • Java was a small software product?

        I have no numbers, but it's difficult to think that a product like Java would cost more to distribute than it brought in. Particularly given the number of very large companies subscribing.
        Maybe a rate increase was the best answer.

        I may not be understanding you correctly.



        Hmmm.

        Maybe instead of the inevitable loss from open sourcing Java, Sun should have considered putting in ads which ran each time an applet is created or run. That would make a fortune!
        Anton Philidor
        • Economics

          [i]I have no numbers, but it's difficult to think that a product like Java would cost more to distribute than it brought in. Particularly given the number of very large companies subscribing.[/i]

          Keep in mind that for most uses, Java was [i]gratis[/i]. However, Sun had to maintain some kind of distribution control, which meant that every Java download cost them money.

          [i]Maybe a rate increase was the best answer.[/i]

          Which would have reduced the market penetration, reducing the net user value thanks to network effects and causing the amortized fixed costs per copy to rise.

          [i]I may not be understanding you correctly.[/i]

          The economics of software are very strange, since there aren't any intrinsic per-unit costs and the network effect is so strong.

          The latter part of the grandparent post addressed that aspect and wasn't directly connected to Sun as such.

          The implication is that the value of Java (like OpenOffice.org) to Sun is largely strategic: they need it to be widespread as a defense against their core businesses. If they charge too much for it, they don't get the necessary penetration and become vulnerable where it really counts.
          Yagotta B. Kidding
          • Not about market penetration, I think.

            I notice Mr. Dignan's Comment that he can't isolate the Java licensing fees in Sun's financial statements. So we're guessing changes in guesses.

            Still, somehow ZDNet found the figure of $100 million sacrificed for open sourcing Solaris, less any continuing payments, I think. With Java's current distribution, it's hard to think that Java brought in much less and probably a lot more.
            That would pay for a lot of downloads.

            The licensees in question were companies like IBM. They had to pay a competitor, and were probably relieved when that expense stopped. IBM would not have been hurt by a price increase for Java, nor made less use of it.

            You're right, though, that Sun and Java (did) benefit from widespread distribution. That's why Sun's insistence that Microsoft include only a limited, obsolete version of Java in Windows was a major blunder.

            Sun knows how to fail to gain from advantages, no?!
            Anton Philidor
    • No.. not on the desktop

      "Microsoft has competition to Java already in .Net. It's difficult to
      think of anything developers will be able to do with Java that
      would change the competition to Java's advantage. But the
      disadvantages in reduced central control seem obvious."

      .NET is available on a single platform, Java is available on many
      more platforms and when the transition is complete to the GPL it
      will be available on every platform supported by *nix.

      This is a huge advantage for non-desktop developers and will
      reinvigorate Java in embedded and server markets.

      On the desktop Java and Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) make a
      very good deployment alternative for cross platform
      applications, something of increasing interest to the enterprise
      outside the ZDNet MS love-in. We're even seeing a number of
      tools being developed in it (e.g. Flex Builder) and we'll see much
      more early next year when IBM updates their productivity
      applications:-)
      Richard Flude
      • Great post!!

        [i].NET is available on a single platform[/i]

        Except for the fact that .NET is available on Linux and OSX, your quote is 100% right!

        So, other than the fact that you are 100% wrong, I found your post to be 100% right. Good job!
        NonZealot
        • not cross platform !

          to my knowledge as of tofay .NET is only available on windows.
          mono is only a partial port. Want any evidence : take a .NET complete application and try to run it with mono w/o any change. I check paint.NET : it needs a port that is not yet complete to be able to run on mono.
          s_souche
          • mono is virtually .net 1.1 compliant

            paint.net is written using .net 2.0.

            That's the problem of non open source platforms, other implementations are always playing catchup.

            However, on the flip side, since Microsoft is determining the standard of it's own product, improvements happen much faster. Remember how long it took Java to put in generics (after many many requests from the community).
            kevintxu
          • virtual/actual

            .NET absolete version is virtually crossplatform
            whereas an actually crossplatform up to date framework is needed :-)

            the point is not open source vs. proprietary.
            had microsoft defined open specifications for its .NET platform, we wouldn't be discussing that point.

            Open clear specification are more interesting that open source virtual machine which need reverse engeneering to be adapted/ to evolve.

            If you want true interoperability, you need to freeze the interfaces and make them public. the underlying implementation is then not relevant
            s_souche
          • .net is an open standard.

            .Net is an open standard - its not propriety. Microsoft's own implemetation of that standard is windows specific though.

            Microsoft has the Microsoft.* namespace which are obviously proprietry - mono does not do those assemblies and they are not applicable to cross platform programming anyways. Many standard .net programmes and languages run out of the box on mono - including asp.net with the mod_mono apache plugin. It does have some problems with the System.Windows assembly (thats not windows as in the OS but in GUI assemly) but most programmmes that use the .net standard assemblies shoudl work unaltered.

            All this is open to read on mono's home page and easy to check out.
            Andric_D
          • .NET is NOT an open standard

            ".Net is an open standard - its not propriety. Microsoft's own
            implemetation of that standard is windows specific though."

            Various parts of .NET have been submitted to standards
            organisations (e.g. Common Language Runtime, C# language,
            etc) however NOT many of the frameworks required for .NET
            application compatibility on non-windows platforms (e.g.
            ADO.NET, ASP.NET, etc).
            Richard Flude
        • Guess it is easy thinking you're right when you ignore the truth

          "Except for the fact that .NET is available on Linux and OSX, your
          quote is 100% right!"

          .NET is NOT available on Mac OS X or Linux. You can provide a
          link proving your position if you like;-)

          The mono project (www.mono-project.com) is a Novell
          supported project to bring .NET runtime to *nix OSes. It is not a
          complete .NET implementation nor do end users have IP
          protection when using it outside a Novell support contract.

          Funny you keep following me around the talkbacks when it is so
          easy to give you a slap;-)
          Richard Flude
  • Two different questions

    "What [b]should[/b] they do" vs. "What [b]will[/b] they do."

    Keep in mind that whatever you think MS [b]should[/b] do, MS [b]will[/b] do something "stronger." Like the common tendency to keep going past the point where "more" stops being "better," MS has an organizational compulsion to keep piling it higher and deeper.
    Yagotta B. Kidding
    • Send RMS a wedding cake?

      Since somehow he manged to make Sun his...
      Erik Engbrecht
  • .NET's Shared Source is far far from being useful

    It lacks the source code of some core and very important UI libraries while Java had the source code of all its JDK available (not under GPL) for years.
    genadyb
  • Put delegates back in

    Microsoft should add all the stuff they put in 10 years ago that would have made Java a useful language. As it stands, java is a pathetic language that makes even the most trivial user interface tasks a pain. Do you still have to implement an interface if you want to respond to a mouse click?
    jackbond
    • I thought...

      Now, I'm no Java or *NIX expert (I've dabbled with a bit of Java but I do .NET web development mostly), but I thought the whole reason it's so difficult to implement events in Java (as opposed to how it is in .NET at any rate) is because different OSs respond to events in different ways, so you have to program it in an abstract way which the JVM can compile to the proper bytecode depending on what subsystem you use.
      ObiWayneKenobi