?So what did you do when they first invented the Net, Grandad?? I was asking that Chris Long only the other day.
?Well, son, we wrote piles of stuff in a language called Java and it meant you could wave at people from your Web site,? he replied. ?They?d be able to see you waggling your hand about, and you could put voiceovers on intranets, wallop in a few animations, you name it. The PC couldn?t walk over to your armchair and do all the typing for you like today?s models do, but it looked really clever at the time.?
?How interesting ? not ? but what was all this animation and noise actually for??
And that?s the big question. What does all this Java-related Web animation actually do that is any use to anyone in business, and never mind the propeller heads? Does the phrase ?nothing at all, really? spring to mind?
We?re all impressed by Java, until we stop to think about its uses. The problem is, unless it becomes useful in some serious and meaningful way, nobody of any size is going to want to take it up. And if nobody takes it up, guess what happens to the eventual market share.
Java fans (we?ll call them ?Beanies?) will be screaming by now. Let me explain. Scenario one: you?re a chairman and your in-house Beanie is pitching the idea that you need to go the Java route to be competitive, keep ahead of the pack, stay ahead of the game, climb every mountain, that sort of thing. Beanie shows you a demo.
It looks very impressive, you have to admit. A video of one of the IT department talking the customer through a brief presentation on what you offer, a bit of soothing music in the background, an animated version of your company logo: it?s well ?ard. You go for it, and anyone with a reasonably souped-up PC can log on and admire you at their leisure, for as long as they want.
Scenario two: you?re another decision-maker. Lookee here, you?re told, we can get all this whizzbang gear like animations, sound, applets and other stuff. Great, you say, what sort of wordprocessor does it have? What? Oh right, it doesn?t have a wordprocessor as such just yet, it?s just that the one you?ve already got works with it.
What about a spreadsheet then ... No? OK, look, I?ll buy it if there?s a calculator written for it. No, not a full-blown accounts package, just an ordinary little adding machine to salve my conscience. Oh, there isn?t? I see. So you want me to buy this Java/intranet system before I can actually run my business on it, you just want me to take it because it?s pretty. No thanks.
Maybe I?m just being a stick-in-the-mud. People are always buying pretty stuff they don?t need. Heaven only knows why we all insisted on going the GUI route when the older systems were still working and there?s nothing very difficult about keying in the letters ?w-o-r-d? when you want to type a letter. When Windows 95 came out we may all have scoffed a bit and made noises about drains on memory, but by now most of us have cranked up our systems and moved over to it.
The difference is that the software developers had done stuff that worked for Windows, stuff you could use to make your company tick. Whether an accounting package really needs a strong graphic look is questionable, but if you?re going over to a system wholesale for your entire organisation, it needs a few basics like wordprocessing, spreadsheets and some sort of organiser package in tow.
So I look at the press releases I?ve had over the past few weeks and ask myself: how many Java-only products have been launched? Who is developing solid business applications for which Java will be a necessity, motivating people to buy into it as quickly as possible? Really? As few as that? And Java is poised to become the biggest thing in computing since IBM decided that naming a computer after a raincoat might not be the best selling point in the known universe, you say?
I?ll reserve judgement before I decide on its real potential. When it does something really serious, the numbers will start matching up to the marketing, but until then it?s likely to be about as substantial as one of its own applets.
In the meantime, if anyone wants to see me waving at them on my Web page, tough. It?s totally static and has facts and businessy stuff rather than whizzbangs to save on upload and download times. Concise, informative, and no frills, that?s me. It?ll never catch on.Guy Clapperton is under the sad delusion that people look at his page from time to time. It is at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/gclapperton
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