Is Java nothing more than the beanie baby of programming languages?
Java may indeed be man’s best response to the age-old problem of creating cross-platform networked applications, but much of its current momentum builds on a very dubious characteristic of human beings– the herd mentality, or the tendency to be taken in by fads.
That was one of the clearest conclusions to emerge from a report conducted by Zona Research at the behest of Softbank Forums, which is organizing Java Internet Business Expo, to be held in New York from Aug. 25 to Aug. 28.
For example, the study reported that among the 279 companies surveyed, IT managers said the predictions regarding industry trends were the single greatest external influence on their adoption of Java. Meanwhile, the desire to satisfy programmers by allowing them to program in Java was a strong third among the internal corporate reasons for deploying Java, behind Web browser links and cross-platform compatibility.
If you put these two facts together, it appears that IT shops are being stampeded into using Java by a tide of perceptions. IT managers believe “predictions” that Java is the future, and programmers are reneging at programming in non-Java languages.
But hold on–these are not all IT shops. In fact, only a subset of IT departments are acting this way. A close look at the Zona study reveals that it was never crafted as a survey to gauge Java penetration across all corporations. For example, 1,000 or so IT professionals were called on the phone. Two hundred seventy-nine answered affirmatively to a question about whether they plan to do something with Java in the next year. These companies were surveyed, and the others were not. The result is that the report has statements such as “47 percent of organizations are already using Java, and the rest plan to test and deploy Java-based solutions within the next 12 months.”
Well, of course, saying you plan to use Java within the year was a condition of being in the survey sample to begin with! The fact is, only about a third of people who picked up the phone said they intend to implement Java in the next year. (This is what happens when people who are putting on a show about a technology commission a study about that technology.)
Interestingly, our recent Fast-Track 500 study found that many IT professionals who are purchasing new technology are not implementing Java, simply because it is not mature enough yet, and they’re avoiding ActiveX for the same reason.
However, the study was not without value. Yes, some companies are building important applications in Java. But the study revealed some worries about Java, the foremost of which concerned cross-platform portability. Although the ability of Java and the Java Virtual Machine to run on different platforms is an essential promise of Java computing, about half the respondents wondered whether Java applications will indeed be able to run equally on any operating system or hardware platform. Other concerns were Java’s speed and whether it would scale to run on all sizes of computer systems. Respondents also said they’re interested in deploying NCs (network computers), but not because NCs will run Java applications.
So the best evidence is that only a minority of IT shops are doing serious work in Java–and even those users have considerable worries.
Maybe Java is ahead of other languages–C++, for example–at a comparable stage. But we are not nearly as far along as the Java pushers would have us believe.