Talk about bad timing. Right as Microsoft (MSFT)
launched a drive to take
on the perceived threat of Java as a platform, Sun Microsystems (SUNW)
provided the software giant plenty of ammunition.
In the span of a few days, Sun has stumbled over its "100 Percent Pure
Java" marketing campaign and suffered a preliminary rebuff at the hands of
an international standards organization.
"We're seeing two major shots in the foot by Sun," said David Smith,
research director for the Gartner Group's Internet services division. "One
is the defeat over ISO. The other is their backpedaling on the '100 Percent Pure' campaign."
The ISO defeat refers to the international standards body that this week rejected Sun's bid to submit Java as a technical standard yet keep most of
its control over the technology. (See related story)
Also this week, the company took steps to address problems with the "100 Percent Pure" campaign, which it launched earlier this year to promote Java applications that aren't tied to one specific platform.
Amid developer complaints that reaching 100 percent Java purity has not
been as easy as first expected, Sun proposed the interim step of a "100
Percent Pure Pending" label, a way to give recognition to developers
committed to writing pure Java applications. But the company has since
nixed the idea, saying it caused too much confusion.
"It's something we've floated since June, but there was a lot of confusion
about it," said JavaSoft representative Elizabeth McNichols. "People thought
we were giving the '100 Percent Pure' logo to applications that weren't
"Pure Pending" developers were to receive marketing benefits such as
discounted advertising and preferred positions at trade shows. The idea
faded quickly, however, as the company didn't want to be perceived as
diluting the "pure Java" stamp.
In addition, the company has added a feedback page to
its Web site for developers who are having trouble getting up to 100
"The page will be up for a while," said McNichols. "The whole idea is to
gauge if developers are ready to test and certify their applications. If
not, then we want to know how Sun can help them out."
companies so far have achieved 100 percent purity, and 100 more are in
the process of certification, according to Sun.
But everyone from developers to Sun officials now acknowledges that Java is
not yet as rich as it will have to be to lure developers away from other
platforms. Software maker Symantec,
which sells Java development tools written in C++, hasn't made a high
priority of porting its products to 100 percent Java.
"We're incorporating pieces of Java as they're necessary," said Sheri
Schurter, Symantec's senior marketing manager for Internet tools, but she said the
company is devoting its resources to giving Java developers access to the
language. "Our customers are saying it has to have more stability, faster
performance, more consistent cross-platform capability, and better database
connectivity. The language at this point isn't what it's going to be."
That message should have been clearer when Sun began promoting Java heavily
with radio and print ads, said the Gartner Group's Smith.
"I would say that the marketing campaign was too successful," Smith said.
"'100 percent pure' is ahead of its time. They promised too much, and it's
causing a delay in the natural cycles of Java, which has ups and downs like
all new technologies."
Sensing that Java is in a "down" cycle, Microsoft has launched a press tour
to argue that Java is a great programming language to make Windows
applications, but as a platform, it can't compete with Windows.
"This is an indictment of Sun's marketing strategy, not the technology,"
said Cornelius Willis, Microsoft director of platform marketing.
Despite Sun's strategic setbacks and Microsoft's renewed criticism, the
Java platform is poised to hit an "up" cycle, thanks to recent NC framework
and JavaBeans announcements, Smith said.
"Sun and its allies are generally doing a good job, and the seeds of the
next upswing have already been sown," he said.