Analysts Differ on Sun’s Branding Campaign

Sun Microsystems
continued to hammer out its software evolution strategy at the JavaOne
conference in San Francisco Wednesday, unveiling, among other advancements,
support
for its Java RunTime Environment by stalwarts HP and Dell, and the creation
of java.net, a new community Web site
created to spur Java collaboration.


The news was released at the Santa Clara, Calif. vendor’s annual JavaOne
developer’s conference. According to some industry watchers, the conference
comes at an crucial time in the company’s bid to be a major player in the
crowded market for Web services. Sun has come under fire in the last year by
some analysts who claim the company’s grip on Web services
was slippery at best, and that the firm did not
properly articulate its plans to create Java Web services.


Analysts such as ZapThink’s Jason Bloomberg, argued that Microsoft and IBM are widening the gap almost daily
between themselves and Sun on this frontier. For that reason, experts have
said the company must use its annual developer’s conference, JavaOne, to
simultaneously wow and educate the industry on its progress of molding Java
applications to current Web services practices. In addition to Web services,
Sun contends that it sees the most potential for Java in the
wireless and mobile gadget fronts, and plans to attack that market.


Despite Sun’s efforts to launch a massive “Java-Powered” branding
campaign
, ZapThink’s Bloomberg remains skeptical, if not confused by the
company’s message. Likening Sun’s campaign to Intel’s “Intel Inside”
campaign, he wondered just “how much of the money paid for a ‘Java Inside’
mobile phone will go to Sun? The answer isn’t clear.”


“The quandary Sun is in is that they don’t know just how open or proprietary
Java should be,” Bloomberg told internetnews.com. “Make it too open,
and not a penny of the ‘Java Inside’ devices will go to Sun, but make it too
proprietary, and no one will want to use it. This quandary is most apparent
in Sun’s approach to Web Services which the company calls “Java Web
Services.” So, which is it, Sun? Are these really Web Services — that is,
open standards-based interfaces to software written in any language running
on any platform, or are they language and platform specific?


Bloomberg said the contradiction came through “loud and clear” when Jonathan
Schwartz, executive vice president of Sun’s software group, dismissed the Eclipse open source initiative as being
“about binding your applications to an operating system.”


Bloomberg said “Sun would rather see software bound to the Java Virtual
Machine instead. But how can binding applications to the JVM be an
improvement over binding apps to an OS, if the JVM is proprietary? And how
will Sun make money off the Java branding initiative if it’s not?”


Sun did not respond to calls seeking comment as of press time, but Redmonk
Senior Analyst Stephen O’Grady came to the company’s defense somewhat. He
doesn’t agree Sun is being as shifty as Bloomberg says they are, but agrees
the campaign won’t be an immediate success.


“As for Sun being conflicted about whether or not Java is open, given the
progression of the JCP away from Sun dominated to industry standard, I’m not
really sure what that’s based on,” O’Grady told internetnews.com. “If
anything, Sun is more or less a zealot for keeping Java open. In a
conversation with Jonathan [Schwartz] yesterday I brought up the
question of Sun monetizing Java, and his response was that it was a
multi-billion dollar business for Sun through identity servers, app dev
tools, etc. I understand and to somewhat agree with the assertion that Sun
has not capitalized on their investment to the extent that other vendors
might have, but to extrapolate that into saying they’re unclear about the
openness of Java to me is a reach.”


O’Grady also pointed to the deluge of announcements Sun has made about its
progress with Java this week, as evidence that it grasps the significance
and importance of the ecosystem/network of Java supporters. He cited Sun’s new
partnership
with Dell and HP, and said Sun is marshalling resources across
the board to ensure a role for Java in everything from high-end servers to
network-aware toasters.


“Whether or not that campaign is ultimately successful depends entirely on
Sun’s ability to execute,” O’Grady said, noting that Redmonk is definitely
not ready to count them out.


But Bloomberg, whose firm specializes in analyzing and consulting clients on
XML and Web services strategies, sees a different problem. His issues are
with Sun’s use of the “Java Web Services” moniker, noting that Web Services
by themselves are little more than standards-based interfaces to software
functionality.


“However, when Sun talks about Web Services it’s always about “Java Web
Services,” as though if you wanted a Web Service, you should go out and get
yourself some Java to build it with. Of course, with Sun, if you want a
widget (fill in any kind of IT thing you might want), then you should go out
and get yourself some Java to build it with. Well, that’s fine for many
things, but the point of Web Services is that it doesn’t matter which
language or platform you use. If you don’t believe that,
then you don’t get what Web Services are all about.”


However, Bloomberg explored the flipside to that coin: if you already have
Java, then customers are in good shape.


“Now, if you already have Java, then Java is a great language (and J2EE is a
great platform) to build Web Services with. After all, if it doesn’t matter
which technology you pick, go with the one that makes sense for you,”
Bloomberg said. “And sure, if you want to build Web Services, then you
should get great Web Services tools — like Visual Studio, or WebLogic
Workshop, or whatever. If all Sun was simply saying was that their software
was great for building and running Web Services, that would be one thing (we
might not agree with them, but at least it would be a logical thing to say).
But to say that if you want to build Web Services, you should go out and get
Java, just doesn’t make sense at a fundamental level.”

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