With the new year comes a fresh battle for the hearts and minds of developers. Microsoft clearly set the stage for a showdown with Google Inc. with the launch of its Volta toolset just as 2007 was winding down.
The company conveniently launched Volta in early December just as Google hosted its Google Web Toolkit (GWT) Conference, a three-day educational confab for those wanting to gain proficiency with the GWT.
And thus the Java versus .NET debate enters a new phase.
"Microsoft has saturated the enterprise market with Visual Studio and the other part of that market is owned by Eclipse," says Dave Thomas, founder and chairman of Ottawa-based Bedarra Research Labs Ltd. Thomas is a longtime programming expert and is taking a look at Volta, which will probably end up being an enhancement or add-on to Visual Studio.
Microsoft's tools battle has now moved outside the enterprise to the world of rich Web applications, where it's by no means a shoe-in. There it faces entrenched market-leading tools from Adobe Systems Inc. and extremely popular new-age tools from such companies as Google and eBay Inc.
"They're very agitated but they have to use it," he continues. "This is historically problematic because the browsers have been incompatible and lack fancy development tools."
Google acknowledged this with the initial release of the GWT in May 2006. The stated goal at the time was to make development of AJAX apps easier. Google Maps and Gmail, unsurprisingly, were cited as examples of good AJAX implementations.
Competition Heats Up
The interesting thing about Volta and its Silverlight cousin is that it's an acknowledgement by Microsoft that it doesn't control every client device. Silverlight is Microsoft's plug-in for creating dynamic cross-browser, cross-platform .NET applications.
"Microsoft has had this environment, which is where they've kept developers for a long time," Christman says. "Microsoft wants all of its developers to stay with its toolset and output to other things -- so you export to Silverlight or a mobile device but your core development remains in the Windows world."
As evidence that this Visual Studio/Windows dominance is being challenged, an Evans Data Corp. survey this summer found that of 400 developers surveyed, 64.8 percent were targeting Windows this year, down from 74 percent last year. And, that percentage is expected to drop another couple of points this year.
Barbara Darrow is Industry Editor for Redmond Developer News, Redmond magazine and Redmond Channel Partner. She has covered technology and business issues for 20 years.