There was a time when Java was the darling of the technology industry. It had everything going for it--technically advanced, relatively easy to use, and it held the magical promise of "write-once, run-anywhere."
But, over the last two years or so (seemingly ever since Sun changed it's stock ticker to JAVA), the language has become boring and moribund. Not that programming languages are such a thrill ride, but Java had a level of panache well beyond the norm.
Somehow Java has become really boring. People don't even argue about it anymore. Once thriving sites like TheServerSide don't have the excitement or vitriol that they did in the past. Based on some quick interviews I did, Java guys are all over the map as to why the excitement is gone, running the gamut from JSR bureaucracy, to the focus on things like JavaFX, to the changes in Java EE 6 that most developers didn't ask for and do nothing to support new paradigms like Web apps or cloud computing.
Sun has effectively lost the battle for the cloud to virtualization, which boggles the mind considering the enormous arsenal of servers, storage, and software that Sun has at its disposal to create a differentiated cloud offering for all of the enterprise Java shops. I remain of the opinion that Java should be the dominant platform for the cloud.
Much of the feedback I got from developer friends was related to Sun's lack of connection to the developer community, which I eventually distilled to mean a lack of leadership--not specifically on the developer side, which is quite strong, but from a corporate angle and a human face defining software leadership. The recent departure of MySQL executives certainly didn't help.
It's hard to tell if this is just a market reaction to Sun's downturn or simply part of the evolution of Java itself, but Sun appears to have proven that innovation doesn't matter when no one cares. The best, most innovative open-source products will sit on the proverbial shelf if developers don't care. With the exception of the growth of MySQL there doesn't appear to be a lot of momentum behind Sun's recent software efforts.
Tuesday's announcement of the Glassfish Portfolio illustrates how Sun is once again missing the point. Glassfish Portfolio is a group of applications that already exist in both open-source and proprietary offerings with clear leaders on both sides. What Sun is offering is not new, not terribly innovative, and sadly for their developers, rather pointless.
As opposed to partnering with the dominant open source Java frameworks or applications (Spring or JBoss for example), Sun puts out another piece of software that no one cares about. There is a reason why Spring has been downloaded millions of times. Sun should be embracing frameworks like Spring that people want to use instead of re-inventing the wheel again and again.
I find this depressing more than anything else. Sun is an important company and I would argue that Java is the clear leader in the enterprise. Something has to give, and its not more meaningless open source code out in the universe.
A few months back I questioned "What if Sun fails with open source" I never would have expected to see Sun fail with Java.