The Java Showdown

It has been week or so since we heard Oracle was suing Google over Android. I was pretty irritated when I heard the news, but refrained from flaming Oracle on instinct the very first day. I’ve had some time now to read up on the issue and reflect on the implications.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there is no good to be had in Oracle owning Java. Oracle exists to feed Larry Ellison’s ego, and they really don’t give a damn about software developers. Oracle even makes Microsoft look downright innovative when you look at their stale, over-priced product offerings.

So before I get to my conclusions, lets look at the winners and losers in this whole fiasco:

  • Oracle – Losers. They’ve shot themselves in the foot with both the Java and Open Source communities over this, so they have nowhere to go but down.
  • Google – Winners. Regardless if they win the lawsuit, they’re flying the Open Source flag and putting their money where their mouth is. Google is now the mindshare leader for both Java and Open Source.
  • Microsoft – Winners. .NET is looking a lot more appealing, and any enterprise software development shop would be insane not to look at .NET for green-field development, especially now that Oracle has shown its hand.
  • Apple – Winners (temporarily). Android was on track to be the “internet” to Apple’s “AOL” walled-garden mobile niche. This will slow the inevitable, buying Apple a few more years of hefty profits.
  • Java Developers – Losers. We’re screwed. Our new overlord really doesn’t give a damn about us, and it will only go downhill from here. I thought Java was becoming the new COBOL; its actually the new PowerBuilder.
  • Ruby – Winners. As DHH famously tweeted, this was the Day Java Died. Ruby is now hitting 1.9.2 final, and Rails 3 is on RC2, so this is going to be a pretty compelling platform for hardcore developers who have been using Java.

So yes, I’m still pretty negative on this. I think this will go down as Java’s jump-the-shark moment. Yes, there will still be plenty of work writing and maintaining Java applications, but the “cool factor” is gone. Sun, in spite of their incompetence, was still an engineering company that software developers could relate to. Oracle is more in the category of used car salesmen.

I expect this suit to be a lot like the SCO battle. Oracle even hired the same dirtbag lawyers. It is going to take years to resolve. In the end, I expect Google to win, simply because Dalvik isn’t Java. This is just about Oracle trying to stick their greedy fingers into the Android pie.

So what should Java developers do? As I’m mentioned before, we should have already been asking ourselves what we would do in the post-Java world. .NET is still pretty tempting. Ruby is also a cool option; it has matured nicely and is ready for about any web development task.

The other option is to punt, which is where I’m leaning. As I mentioned two years ago, I think the whole middle-tier is dead. The hot area now is all at the browser, and JavaScript is the place to be. Ironically, in spite of my significant trash talk against it, I’m starting to play with Adobe Flex again too. The biggest reason is AIR. ActionScript is essentially strongly-typed JavaScript, and AIR provides a conduit to writing real desktop applications in JavaScript.

The advantage to both of these technologies (JavaScript & Flex) is that I really don’t give a damn about the backend. I can create compelling user interfaces which can be wired in to any backend using simple protocols, which is a hell of a lot more fun than dealing with the crapfest that server side software development has become.

So I’ll watch this whole lawsuit unfold in morbid curiosity, sort of like watching a trainwreck in slow motion. And, in the words of Bart Simpson, Oracle can kiss my butt.

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