July 12, 2005

Competition == Inovation?

It's certainly the economics of a free market that I was taught.

My title is a bit of a misnomer, as I intend to write about the massive selection/competition in the area of J2EE frameworks. I've been doing a bit of research in anticipation of my job and the selection of frameworks for building serverside java application is huge. The selection of application servers is also huge; a lot of big names seem to have their own proprietary, as well as Tomcat and JBoss being the open source offerings. I may just settle for plain JSP and Servlets, but Java Server Faces looks pretty interesting and a new approach to something like Struts. There is also Velocity, Tapestry, Cocoon, Spring, Hibernate, JDO… those are the ones i can name off the top of my head, and apparently there are currently about 35 different frameworks.

On the other hand the .Net platform has just the Microsoft offering, as far as i know, please correct me if that is not the case. Python has quite a healthy selection, but not of the scale of Java. Ruby has just Rails, and php and perl are themselves.

So all this competition for J2EE applications. I hope despite the daunting look to the uninitiated, it promotes innovation. I think the apache projects in this area are an immediate testament to this, so very interesting ideas going on there.

To carry on with the theme of innovation, there was an interview with Steve Ballmer which was posted on Slashdot a few days ago. The interview covered a number of topics, all good marketing stuff from the crazy man himself, but the point of interest to the Slashdot discussion was Ballmers comments about who was innovating in the IT industry.

He cited Microsofts work on interactive TV, the tablet platform, Office, Live Communicator, Visual studio, Msn Messenger, Longhorn and the Xbox 360… as all being 'super innovative stuff'. I could grant him the tablet platform… but Messenger? And Longhorn for that matter, there seems to have been plenty of press releases over the past few months about all the features that are being left out or being back ported to XP!

He goes on to deny the innovation of other companies.

I look out at the world and I say ‘who is doing the innovative stuff over the last few years?’ Did IBM out innovate us? I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve done much interesting at all. What about Oracle? I don’t think they’ve done much innovative at all. What about the open source guys? Ah, the business model is interesting but we haven’t seen much in the way of technical innovation. People cite Google. Google has done some interesting stuff.

Least they actually accept that Google is rocking their world. IBM… not doing interesting stuff… did the Cell processor pass Ballmer by? IBM also has plenty of stuff going on underneath the surface and their history of innovation is rock solid. "The open source guys"... no technical innovation? Granted there are plenty of Yet Another * applications, but there are plenty of very cool systems. Bit-torrent is one that comes to mind… even Microsoft secretly recognises that one, they are doing their 'embrace and extend', and making their own version of Bit-torrent. If we are calling MSN super innovative, then lets puts some perspective on things, and think about Ruby on Rails. A still un-matured web-programming framework, but has received plenty of attention for its extremely rapid development abilities, very cool features and thorough use of things like AJAX.

The transcript
and The video

And of course any reference to Steve Ballmer should always reference this

Oh dear me.

In general Ballmer's words are getting at something. There may not be any 'real' innovation, what ever that is, and that definitely includes Microsoft. I think it is an important thing to encourage the IT world, to be driving to innovate, as that is a key ingredient. I personally think there is plenty of innovation going on, limited amounts of major innovation, but we should always been searching for more.

Now how is that for meandering.

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