.NET Will Win Battle for Mindshare Among Developers

If history is any indication, the battle for dominance in the Webservices space won't hinge upon the overall efficacy of a vendor'sadvertising hype, nor, it stands to reason, on how adept a company is at sowing the seeds of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) among prospective customers. At this point, it's not even clear that success in the Web services arena will depend upon the features and functionality of a Web services framework itself, as both .NET and J2EE will more or less offer competitive parity with one another.

Instead, a Web services champion will probably be determined by thedegree to which vendors are successful in their efforts to courtenterprise software developers and independent software vendors.It's in this respect, then, that Microsoft Corp. leads the pack.

How else to account for the otherwise inexplicable success ofMicrosoft's Windows operating system, which over the first decade of its existence couldn't even begin to approximate the usability andfunctionality of the rival Macintosh operating system from AppleComputer Corp., nor the stability and manageability of the vaunted OS/2operating system from IBM Corp.?

Microsoft has always actively courted developers, and for this reason, it's been able to tread water, so to speak, even when at a competitive disadvantage - and in some cases has managed to grow its marketshare at the expense of its competitors. Given enough time, Microsoft eventually develops products that offer parity with those of its competitors – but by that point, it's already got most ISVs and a lot of enterprise developers in its pocket.

All signs indicate that the software giant is applying the same strategy in the Web services space. One of the reasons why Microsoft has historically enjoyed such popularity among enterprise developers,especially, has been because of the quality of its Visual Studiodevelopment suite, which marries a variety of development tools – Visual C++, Visual Basic, Visual FoxPro and Visual J++, among others - with a consistent and Windows-friendly rapid application developmentenvironment.

From the beginning, then, Microsoft has made getting the first.NET-enabled version of Visual Studio out the door a huge priority.Throughout 2001, the software giant consistently endeavored to get itsmessage out about Visual Studio .NET and even promised to finalize itscode base by the end of 2001 - a significant pledge from a softwarevendor that's been known to let a delivery deadline or two (or three)slide by. But that's not all: Throughout the year, Microsoft attemptedto get beta copies of Visual Studio .NET into as many hands as possible.

The result? If you attended a Microsoft trade show event in 2001, you probably flew home with a beta copy of Visual Studio .NET in tow.

Fast forward to the present. With its Visual Studio .NET developmentsuite nearly complete - it's slated to ship on February 13, 2002 -Microsoft is poised to provide developers with what's shaping up to be a robust environment for the development of .NET applications. VisualStudio .NET's incorporates a new development language - C# -- and shipswith a Common Language Common Language Runtime environment that willenable developers to write their applications in any of severaldifferent programming languages - including Java - and stillsuccessfully run their code.

Moreover, the software giant's traditional emphasis on proprietary code and the protection of .NET's licensing restrictions will probably appeal to developers who are concerned about safeguarding the intellectual property of the applications and components that they create.

Finally, many enterprise software developers have already had a chance to at least get their hands on - if not actually play around with – Visual Studio .NET.

It's precisely in this regard, then, that Sun, Oracle and the cumbersome Java Community Process (JCP) come up (somewhat) short, however. Compared to Microsoft and its (cough) enthusiastic promotion of Visual Studio .NET, neither entity has given ISVs and enterprise software developers much to get excited about. After all, the Java Community Process (JCP), which (owing no doubt to Sun's influence) is well-nigh paranoid about Java's being tainted as even the least bit proprietary, doesn't allow developers to license the Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) that they create - and probably won't do so anytime soon. How many developers are going to create EJBs for third party applications if they're not allowed to protect their intellectual property?

But that's not all. According to a recent survey conducted byComponentSource, an online software component marketplace, Microsoft may already be winning the battle for mindshare among software developers - even in the absence of a fully functional .NET development environment. ComponentSource says that it polled a sample of its 500,000 developer members in an effort to assess their plans to adopt either .NET or Enterprise Java Beans (EJB). The results? 79 percent of developers expressed an interest in evaluating .NET only, while only 14 percent said the same thing about EJB.

So much of .NET is unproven, however, while - conversely - J2EEleverages technologies that are already out there and which work today,so the future's anything but certain. But by seeking first and foremostto address the needs of ISVs and of enterprise software developers,Microsoft may already have secured for itself an important advantage.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.