Back in August 1999, Sun Microsystems President Ed Zander spoke at a New York press conference where Sun unveiled its strategy for using StarOffice as the centerpiece of building what Zander referred to as a "service-driven network". He declared, "We're seeing a second generation on the Internet... In 1995, it was about the network, in 1999, it's about services." At the time, Sun hoped to encourage a new generation of developers to create web-based applications using StarOffice open source code. Today the battle is in the cloud where Microsoft is countering the Google Apps lineup.
In 2001, Sun opened a new chapter in Java history to more effectively compete with Microsoft's .Net/SOAP, declaring the Java framework one of the key underpinnings of a service-driven network.
As was often the case throughout Sun's history, it was prescient in its vision, but allowed its competitors to capitalize on its vision with a keener sense of timing, superior marketing, and business execution.
VMware/SpringSource is opening yet another chapter in Java history, envisioning an environment in which developers can define not only how objects connect with one another, but how they should be packaged into virtual machines and deployed into a virtualized infrastructure.
.Net and the Microsoft tool set are already quite capable of delivering on this similar vision. And to keep the coming batttles even more interesting, Oracle will soon inherit the stewardship of the Java platform, and it's a good bet it will do a better job than Sun.
Time will tell who can best capitalize on its vision with developer mindshare, marketing, and execution.
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