Will .Net take down Java in 2002?

Vendor's survey predicts more developers to build with .Net than Java next year

October 19, 2001 -- As chief executive of an online component broker, Sam Patterson finds himself in an interesting position related to the Web services rivalry between Microsoft and Sun: He stands to profit personally from both .Net and J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition).

A self-proclaimed platform-agnostic provider, ComponentSource offers pre-written components of multiple varieties that developers can purchase and plug into applications they are creating.

On Monday at Microsoft's PDC (Professional Developer's Conference), the Kennesaw, Ga.-based ComponentSource, which also sells EJB (Enterprise JavaBeans) and other non-Microsoft components, plans to unveil the .Net Beta Component Site, which provides a marketplace for beta versions of off-the-shelf components based on Microsoft's .Net Framework. Analysts expect components to play a large role in the move toward Web services.

Along the way, while conducting a simple user-based survey, Patterson and company came across a telling fact about the adoption rates of .Net and J2EE that the coming year may prove true.

According to ComponentSource's survey and based on more than 150,000 responses from developers that use ComponentSource, 79 percent of organizations are evaluating or planning to evaluate .Net components in the next year, while only 14 percent are evaluating or planning to evaluate EJB within the same timeframe. And seven percent of the respondents said they will evaluate both over the next 12 months.

Patterson reads the results as evidence that Microsoft has convinced a substantial number of developers to commit to building with .Net in the coming year. But, he said, the split between developers committing to .Net and those pledging to use EJBs is far wider than he anticipated.

"Microsoft is doing something right, and Sun is doing something wrong. Is it the marketing? Nah. The technology? No, they're both great technologies," Patterson said.

The biggest difference, Patterson continued, is that Microsoft has more ISVs in its corner than does Sun.

"Microsoft has always gotten the ISV relationships right in the past, but Sun and the other J2EE application server vendors, haven't done a great job of culling the ISV market," Patterson added.

Patterson said that Microsoft makes it easier for ISVs to work with its components by including licensing functionality and enabling trial versions of the software.

Another factor playing into .Net adoption is the sheer number of Visual Basic and other Visual Studio programmers. Bill Gates, Microsoft's chairman and chief software architect, recently put that headcount at more than 8 million developers, while Sun claims that more than 2 million developers comprise the Java corps.

Analysts, however, maintain that Java is catching on quickly. IDC, a market research firm in Framingham, Mass., predicted in a report that the use of server-side Java components will increase and expects sales to grow at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 124 percent through 2004. On the other hand, IDC estimated, Microsoft-centric components will increase at a CAGR of 24 percent. By 2004, the IDC report noted, Java components will sell more than non-EJB ones.

In the meantime, a lack of skilled developers will be the primary inhibitor of Java adoption in IT organizations through 2003, said Mark Driver, an analyst at Gartner, a Stamford, Conn.-based IT consultancy.

ComponentSource's survey results come at a time a propos to Microsoft and Sun. Next week both will try to woo developers with their latest Web services plans, Microsoft at its PDC in Los Angeles and Sun at its Services on Demand Summit, in Santa Clara, Calif.

Users have not been as quick to align with one particular vendor for building Web services as perhaps the vendors would hope.

One developer at a telecommunications company speaking on the condition of anonymity said that they will use both J2EE and .Net technologies.

"We already have a hodgepodge of systems and cannot leave those behind. We want the freedom to include our existing code as well as Java and COM [Component Object Model] components into any Web services we build," the developer said.

Furthermore, Gartner predicted that through 2005, more than 90 percent of midsize to large application development organizations most likely will use both Microsoft and Java technologies.

Tom Sullivan is an InfoWorld senior writer.

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