The US Department of Justice has made a mistake in its case against Microsoft by ignoring the server side of the equation, say two visiting American software experts.
Robert Orfali and Jeri Edwards, noted authors on software, were in New Zealand last week conducting seminars on object technology for middleware vendor BEA Software.
Orfali, who is a professor at the University of San Jose, says the US government has focused completely on the client side. "The government ought to look at both sides of Microsoft's strategy. Microsoft is continuing, with impunity, to try to hijack the software industry."
Edwards, who is BEA's strategy and product planning vice-president, says BackOffice was the first move. "They bundled PowerPoint with Excel and Word. That killed off the market for alternative presentation software, spread-sheets and word processing.
"Then they went after the browser and services market, with products like Microsoft Transaction Server, MSMQ [messaging] and the IS Web server. If they were to do the database [Bill Gates recently suggested a database would be bundled with an operating system] the next thing would be Exchange, going for Lotus Notes' jugular," says Orfali. He says about 20 companies were putting out innovative object transaction managers — which MTS is — and Microsoft was boasting that it would try to kill the market by making MTS free. "Their hype machine is such that they are also trying to put Oracle out of business."
The pair are part-way through a world tour, talking about making objects mission-critical to business. Earlier this year BEA, a high-flier which built its early fortune on Tuxedo middleware, launched its M3 object transaction manager.
"There have been three very important things happen this year," Orfali says. "It's the first time objects have been used in mission-critical applications — till now hype has been one of the big problems surrounding objects; Enterprise Java beans has been published and there is now a specification for how intelligent components can talk to an object transaction manager; and we're getting the right mix of tools, which makes it possible to wire everything together in an M3-type application.
"All this is opening up mission-critical objects for the masses. We can start doing on the server side what's been done on the client side. Everyone, with the exception of Microsoft, is behind the new standards."
Orfali believes that by 2000 the object market will be as big as the relational database market was 10 years ago, at around $US10 billion.
In a broader sense, technology is consolidating. "There's a big coalescence around software. What's fragmenting — particularly with the thin client — is that there are a lot of new players in the application server space," says Edwards. "They're able to pickaback easily on technologies such as Java.
"These are very general rather than niche players. It's become very hard for companies to differentiate themselves." She's predicting a bg shake-out over the next 18 months with a lot of buyouts. "But even companies buying, such as Sun, don't understand what's required in this area."
Orfali sees light at the end of the tunnel for programmers. "We're going to get a new model where you program by exceptioins. Products like M3 do the hard stuff "That makes me optimistic about the potential success of this type of model."
Edwards says getting a stable component model, run-time model and tools means the job of programming applications can now be finished at the plumbing level. The next step up, she says, will be doing it faster.
"We think there'll be a substantial explosion in transactions. The number of clients is not limited by the number of people, rather by the number of things. It's the extensions which will provide the business value." Microsoft and Javasoft are popularising this model beyond belief," Orfali says.
"But we believe Microsoft will have a very hard time delivering NT 5.0. It has 15 million lines of code, nine million of them new, and there's a major debugging issue.
"NT probably won't scale for a long time, and people will have to look at middleware."
Java is becoming the language of choice for e-commerce, he says.
A lot of third parties are creating suites of applications with components, according to Edwards. "Coupled with tools, you can go into a site and create applications without any code, doing turnkey applications in two to three weeks." She estimates that, using components, there's a likely saving of up to 80% over the cost of implementing an ERP suite such as SAP.