Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Is Google the New Microsoft?

The applause that Google's Open Handset Alliance and Android initiative have received has been tempered by the question: "What's the agenda here, really?" The two most balanced and thoughtful articles I have read on this subject are these two:

On the one hand, one can only cheer Google on as they empower developers to do more, better, faster. On the other hand, concerns such as this one (from the second of the above) seem valid to me: "There are already too many Java platforms for the mobile world and this is yet another one. The opportunity was to align with mainstream Java, as Sun is planning to do over the next few years. Instead Google has chosen to reinvent the wheel." Similarly, reporting on an exchange of missives between Sun and Google, the first of the above two articles comments: "Google didn't adopt a terribly conciliatory tone in its response, arguing that when it comes to Java fragmentation, Android is the solution, not the problem."

When one couples this development together with the state of JDK 6 on Mac OS (i.e., none currently and no information forthcoming on why or when or if this will change), the rational observer, nevermind the active participant (whose concern is understandably more extreme), logically wants to know -- what's the plan here? Is the developer's interest being considered here, first and foremost? Well, that would be a romantic dream, I suppose, because behind all these developments are corporations, and money, and power play and so on. But, again, as with the Mac OS situation, it would help the developer community if Google would clearly communicate its plans in relation to Java. Fracturing the community cannot be good for developers. It might be good for Google, if Google sees itself becoming some kind of Microsoft, wanting to establish a dominant presence where it decides (rather than the Java Community Process) where Java will go in the coming period. If so, say so. If not, say so too. Strategies need to be hidden to be useful, one understands that, but when so much is at stake, developers need to know the direction in which the ship is sailing.

What do you think? Do these developments herald a new era for Java or are they nothing more than storms in tea cups that will sort themselves out?

No comments: