The Web today, the world tomorrow? Java was born in 1995, but it really came of age this year. A true indication of it's maturity can be measured by the decreasing number of coffee puns associated with the product. Similarly, the actual deployment of the language moved beyond the "dancing applets" stage.
Its rapid acceptance and deployment has been amazing. According to Sun, as of October there are over 2,000 developers using Java. Java also is making major inroads into Fortune 1000 shops. As a testament to Java's popularity, companies including IBM, Cisco, Netscape, and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers started the $100 million Java Fund, specially designed to fund Java start-ups.
Of course, no story would be complete if Microsoft didn't make an appearance. The software giant surprised a lot of people when it decided to license Java early in the year, stating its Internet plan was to "embrace and extend."
And Microsoft never plays only a cameo role. The company made news again at the end of the year, when at the Internet World conference in mid-December, rivals launched the "100 Percent Pure Java Initiative" and accused Microsoft of not being a party to it. Microsoft's response: Give Java to a standards body. Stay tuned as this controversy percolates in the new year.
But the most interesting debate involving Java is that many believe it will turn out to be more than just a language. Because of its Java Virtual Machine, Java also functions as a software platform, which means it can run on operating systems or directly on hardware.
Netscape's Marc Andreeseen sees an opportunity to crack Microsoft's dominance of the operating-system market with the advent of Java as a platform-independent mechanism for delivery of applications over the Internet.
"The whole next generation of operating systems that hundreds of millions of people will be running on powerful PCs and workstations in five to ten years is up for grabs right now?The traditional application lock-in [that] OS vendors have been able to achieve is going to be much harder as most applications get developed for Java and the Net. Most apps developed over the next five to ten years will run on any OS."