Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Quantitative and Qualitative Change 

One idea that has accured to me as a result of the post PDC newblitz is the difference between qualitative and quantitative change. Qualitative change tends to add features without changing values or basic structure, qualitative change, changes our values as well as the models we use to intepret what we do. When qualitative change is successful, it should actually simplify how we understand and do our work. To me this implies that if MS is able to capture the attention of the programmer community, an important part of this process of change will happen long before Longhorn goes into production. If they are successful, it will almost immediately change the value and relationships between our current concepts and work, and change the way existing tools are used to develop programs. Concepts like attribute based programming, Xpath based data manipulation, and declarative programming approaches, which are supported to some extent in existing tools, will be given a boost. Approaches that are based on DOM, SAX, and remote procedure calling will likewise be deprecated. This also relates, to some extent to the concept of FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt). For example, Reporting Services, which will be available by the end of this year, will probably destroy one of MS's longest and closest remaining business partners. There were almost no vendors at the PDC, with the ironic exception of IBM, who had recently acquired Rational (the second largest MS development tool which may now be under attack by MS Whitehorse technology). I did talk with a few vendor attendees, and they were all visibly shaken. Java, which has been struggling to get its Java Server Faces technology out of committee, to compete with ASP.NET (introduced by MS in 2000), will probably quietly shift their focus to Java Desktop Network Components (JDNC). This is an obscure research concept that SUN has been working on, but that may now have to evolve to compete with MS XAML technology. IBM will also have to accelerate its own XQuery support in DB2. There is also a cultural effect. After having gone to several Java Conferences, there where two glaring differences that are taboo to notice or talk about. A large part of the dialog at Sun One, was dedicated to a ritualized demonization of MS. At PDC (my first MS conference), I never heard a negative comment about Java. In fact, there were several acknowledgments of innovations from Java that have been or will be incorporated into the MS platform. In some ways, the industry domination by MS has resulted in a kind of fundamentalism, that is not unlike the current developments in the Moslem World, where its leadership in science and the arts has stagnated under the domination of Western monoculture. In fact I actually share many of these concerns about both the MS black hole of product integration, and the Western monoculture of materialism. But it worries me when Java is defended in increasingly emotional and ethical/cultural terms. I also think that this will continue to be a problem for managers in IT organizations, with both Java and MS development shops, where defection between camps is enforced through many subtle forms of intimidation. This leads to fewer-and-fewer people having knowledge of both technologies. InfoWorld columnist Jon Udell has very interesting comment on a related topic: Skepticism, cynicism, optimism As for the other Taboo subject, while my organization has done better than most, I will just leave this link. Microsoft monks Everything seems pretty normal and nice, save for one thing: Where's all the women?

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