Stats Watch: Microsoft muddies message as 3GL demand flatlines

It's looking a pancake-flat market for 3GL tools for the next year or so and only those which greatly boost the productivity of developers or cut product time to market are likely to be considered.

It's looking a pancake-flat market for 3GL tools for the next year or so and only those which greatly boost the productivity of developers or cut product time to market are likely to be considered.

Sales of third-generation language tools took a major hit last year, the market shrinking nearly 15% from 2001 to $US1.52 billion. Analyst firm IDC expects no recovery until next year at the earliest and even in 2005 growth is likely to remain in single digits.

Many companies decided to use proven tools that they had already inhouse, says IDC's Worldwide Third-Generation Language Tools Competitive Analysis 2003.

Demand for 3GL tools, particularly Java, will grow as the worldwide economy recovers, says IDC. It's a mature market, and what will fuel growth are business and IT needs for increased developer productivity and a more rapid delivery of products and services to market. This means web services and integration projects, says IDC. As well, tools that decrease the cost of development while increasing throughput and automatically generating code will be in demand.

Because the installed base of tools may represent older technology, says IDC, there will be little incentive to further invest in them when the economy improves. Companies will continue to use C++ and Java tools for some time before they look at new tools or integrated development environments (IDEs). Companies which use Windows-based tools will start to look at Microsoft's C# this year, says IDC, so Borland's seminars last week on its C#Builder, for example, will be timely for some.

The top two vendors last year were predictable enough: IBM followed somewhat later by Microsoft. Big Blue's revenues were $US512 million and 33.7% of the 3GL market. Microsoft claimed a 12.1% share and revenue of $US184 million. Fujitsu ($US127 million, 8.4%), Sun ($US76 million, 5%) and Hitachi ($US64 million) came next, though IDC intends to revisit the third (Fujitsu is largely a reseller of others' tools) and fifth placegetters in the Asia-Pacific, suspecting their numbers may be too high. Borland came next with revenue of $US36 million and a 2.5% market share.

None of the top five increased their revenue between 2001 and 2002, says IDC. IBM lost about 1% of its 3GL revenue due to economic factors; Microsoft lost about 13% for other reasons. IDC says the Redmond giant did a poor job of explaining ".Net" and the benefits of upgrading to new tools. It also confused customers and partners with mixed messages about its "unified development environment" tools and how to transition to new languages, dampening sales for both its old and new products, says IDC.

Email Mark Broatch.

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