So what are we to make of the latest results from our exclusive research carried out by Vanson Bourne? Is .Net doomed to lurk forever on the desktop? Can Microsoft ever hope to convince the world at large that it is a genuine enterprise software player? Or will the J2EE forces hold back the tide of Redmond’s advance up through the enterprise?
I think the most interesting thing to come out of the survey results was the lack of a well formed opinion on the part of the many of the respondents. There is clearly an awareness of .Net, but not - I would suggest - an immensely clear understanding of what it all means.
Now we can look at this positively - as the Microsoft spin doctors no doubt will - and say that this means there is a relatively blank sheet on which the company can write the Gospel According To Bill. Alternatively we can take the journalistic ‘glass half empty’ stance and say that it shows that Microsoft has one hell of a job to do to convince the world that .Net is anything more than a PowerPoint slide intended to throw fear, uncertainty and doubt into the market.
The biggest problem I have with .Net is not the basic concept. It’s rather that I can’t seem to find two Microsoft people who give me the same definition of what it actually is in practice. It all puts me in mind of the overarching software architectures that IBM in the early 1990s used to love so much. Who remembers AD/Cycle or SystemView or indeed SAA? All fine and dandy, until you actually tried to map the PowerPoint schema onto your actual business enterprise.
I’m not saying for one moment that .Net won’t come to be an immensely powerful force in the software industry. Bill and the boys and girls in Redmond have the time and the money to do anything they want to as long as it doesn’t attract the attention of the Feds at the Justice Department.
Maybe we should be mapping ourselves back ten years or so and assuming that the subject of our research was not .Net and Java, but SQL Server and Oracle. Suppose we’d asked whether SQL Server would ever be considered an enterprise database? Or whether SQL Server featured as part of most respondents enterprise IT strategies?
The answers I suspect would have been much as they are with the .Net questions. But ten years, a lot of marketing and development dollars and some long conversations with thought leading market analysts later and you have a very different story. Whether the same will be true if we ask our .Net questions in another ten years time remains to be seen...