Sun has been in the news a fair bit recently, and not always around their product portfolio either. We should all be watching Sun in the news as this is the company that ‘owns’ Java, one of the fundamental pieces of the current mix of technologies, and whose big servers have been used at the core of many web systems.
It was, as ever, the news that didn’t make the headlines that caught my eye. The quiet announcement was that Microsoft Search Technology will be included in the latest version of the Java Runtime Environment, in addition also included is an optional add on for an MSN Web toolbar that allows the use of Microsoft Web services such as Windows Live Hotmails and Messenger services. This should have made the big headlines! Alright maybe it was considered just ‘business as usual’ as Microsoft has had a relationship with Sun for quite a while over Java so in that sense maybe it’s not ‘new news’. However it wasn’t always a happy relationship if you can recall what happened.
But this is Microsoft not just having a license to use Java, but getting into the heart of Java with its own code and services. How far could this go? To me Java together with .Net equals control of two major development environments. It also begs the question as to what IBM who have based their whole strategy around Java think about this. Admittedly they have worked hard to enhance Java for their own use, but what happens to the ‘heart’ of Java controlled by Sun must be an issue.

Okay that’s my instinctive reaction, and I suspect that of many others. Surely we should have these two worlds separately, but is that really true? We are getting more and more used to the idea that everything must work with everything when it comes to the Web, maybe Sun and Microsoft are just moving in the right direction? Maybe we should be thinking that if it’s all about loose coupling and services and not monolithic code therefore this could led to some changes?
Now transfer these thoughts into your strategic portfolio management. Have you assumed that these two development environments are separate and different; and as part of that made a choice for one or the other?
Increasingly the view point over the last few years has shifted from ‘best of breed’ in the selection of individual applications with a specialised integration, to ‘best suite’ to cut back the cost/risk of too many vendors in a one off integration and substitute a fully integrated, managed and maintained environment from one vendor. This same thinking leads to development choices naturally enough. However if we focus on the vendor choices then the assumption would be to choose a vendor large enough and strong enough to not just survive, but to thrive. The thriving would ensure that the investment would be maintained with updates and extensions to handle new technologies, and likely recognisable areas of business requirement. Implicit it in all of this is that the suite would be uniform in development environment and homogenous in integration.
It’s hard not to feel that the speed of acquisition of smaller vendors by bigger vendors is going to speed up in the tougher times that look to be ahead as the stronger players drive forward at the expense of smaller weaker players. But at least acquisitions have been recognisable in technology direction, not just by only being the functional extensions added to the suite but by the similarity of the development environment. What happens if this turns out not to be an – necessary constraint and by embracing services the acquirer could just focus on the delivered functionality? That really would be a game changing moment. Now think about your product portfolio management strategy. What will you base it on now?
License costs? Maybe, but I reckon it will be quality of service meaning effectiveness in time, quality, and support in order to make all the changes that the future seems to demand. Could it happen? Recessionary markets in the past have heralded huge changes, and I don’t just mean the 2002 sprat with the dot.com bust. 1990 to 1993 shifted the computing market from departmental mini computers with unique applications for each make of hardware to IT as we know it today, a much more flexible and open, (well in a more limited way than we might use the term today), environment than the mini computer environment that had proceeded it.
What I have just suggested should be hugely contentious so I am expecting some posts! But the trouble with the future is that it’s not like the past, and that means looking again at quite a lot of issues!