What Happens to Java/Linux When Longhorn Ships?

2/24/2004 9:34:34 PM

What Happens to Java/Linux When Longhorn Ships?

I remember reading a quote from a Linux enthusiast, dismissing the impact of Longhorn, stating that the features new in Longhorn essentially exists in Linux in its present form. XAML--oh, that's just XUL--and so on. WINFS--oh, that's just a database.

I feel that, if Longhorn does deliver in its promises, it will severely complicate the future of Linux and Java. If the whole Windows world becomes managed, won't Java performance suffer a bit with two runtimes, two libraries, two garbage collectors needed to run a Java application. Will Java based UIs appear rather dated compared to new Avalon applications, or will Sun be able to match the Longhorn UI look and experience as well as maintain the same UI consistency across multiple operating systems?

For a while, Linux had the advantage of being a more solidly built operating system than Windows 9X; I don't believe it still maintains an edge anymore with Windows XP and Mac OS X. Can an army of volunteers keep up and maintain the same discipline as a focused set of developers in Apple and Microsoft?

Avalon is set to have a far richer set of graphical capabilities and will make full use of the graphics processor; the idea, of course, is that the UI will become as rich or even richer than current video game titles. This advance is proceeding quickly through Microsoft's close collaborative work with hardware developers such as ATI. I think Mac OS X proved earlier that major advances can from come better integration between hardware and software. Linux does not have a good history with hardware support and integration, so it will probably fall behind.

Is there any activity by Linux developers towards a rich multimedia interface? I wonder if the decentralized nature of Linux might even hurt it in this next presentation wave. It's hard to see any advances in this area unless IBM and Sun (perhaps with its Looking Glass) comes along to help.

I am getting a sense of deja vu. When Microsoft announced its Internet plans back in 1996, I had difficulty figuring out how Netscape would fend off some challenges. IE, for instance, was available as a reusable ActiveX control--a feature that won over AOL as well as a number of ISVs. There was also ActiveX documents, the Inet API, HTML integration everywhere, although Active Desktop, however, never caught on and appears to have been abandoned in Longhorn. Microsoft had a multipronged strategy, coming in from all angles with IIS server, FrontPage, MSN, Office, VS, Explorer, and Windows API. Netscape seemed to focus on individual features, while Microsoft focused on linkages, understanding that the world cares more about how to connect different products together. While IE could be easily popped into any application, Netscape's browser was not embeddable for a long time. Well, sure enough, Netscape is no more.

I do think Linux will still be around, if, for any no other reason, than that it's free and open-source. I just don't feel that it will be in many desktops, since I feel that Longhorn will present a more compelling interface. (I'm not talking about the current alpha interface, which is essentially the same as XP; the neat stuff is still hidden from most of the developers at Microsoft, so as not to leak out.)

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Net Undocumented is a blog about the internals of .NET including Xamarin implementations. Other topics include managed and web languages (C#, C++, Javascript), computer science theory, software engineering and software entrepreneurship.

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