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Businesses increase Java use

The Java programming language is finding a niche among enterprise application developers, leading to higher demand for Java-based software development tools.

The Java programming language is finding a niche among enterprise application developers, leading to higher demand for Java-based software development tools, according to two reports today from competing high-tech research groups.

In a departure from how other Internet technologies have been adopted, top IS executives in large enterprises are pushing Java thanks to its ability to extend existing corporate applications, according to one of the studies from Zona Research

"About a third of those surveyed said the use of Java is being driven from above," said Clay Ryder. "That is not a majority, but in past studies, only 15 to 18 percent of companies said they have an Internet strategy. Others have said it just happens, so even if one-third says it's top down, that's significant."

Java adoption among rank-and-file developers has in the past been slow, since many prefer to use languages they already know, such as C++, to build applications. Developers on tight project deadlines tend to reach for tried-and-true tools before devoting time to learning a new one, analysts contend.

However, the studies released today show that Java is not replacing existing tools, but is instead augmenting developers' toolboxes as a method for building client interfaces that integrate existing applications.

The increased enterprise interest in Java by medium and large companies is also creating hot markets for Internet-centric software tools. Overall, the Java tools market will exceed $3 billion by the turn of the century, according to the International Data Corporation report.

Four key segments of the Java tools market accounted for $140 million in revenue last year, a figure that will double this year and grow to $750 million by 2000, IDC estimated. Those core segments are Web site design, Internet rapid application development, Internet enterprise development, and Java development environments.

Zona found that about half of the 279 IT professionals responding to the survey already use Java, and the balance expect to deploy Java within the next year. The research covered firms with 250 or more employees and did not estimate overall market size.

Eighty-four percent of respondents from large firms plan to develop new Java applications, and 70 percent are using Java to enhance existing applications.

"Leverage is a very strong component of how they will use Java," Ryder said.

That interest in Java largely is driven internally, not by vendors, partners or customers, Zona found.

Instead, the top-three drivers were Java's linkages to Web browsers (72 percent), its cross-platform compatibility (66 percent), and interest from programmers (62 percent). Market trends (56 percent) and cost considerations (39 percent) also ranked as key motivators.

One interesting conclusion in the Zona study is that Java is not a driving force behind corporate interest in network computers, even though 46 percent of respondents said their companies were likely to deploy NCs. Of those planning to deploy NCs, 37 percent said they would be new devices, not replacements. Of the respondents expecting to use NCs to replace existing devices, 29 percent said they would replace PCs while 34 percent said they would replace dumb terminals.

"That takes a lot of wind out of the argument that NCs are going to replace PCs in the companies," Ryder said. "And the assumption that Java and NC are tightly linked doesn't seem to be as likely a cause and effect.