James Gosling & The Massive Popularity Of The Java Desktop
By Geertjan on Jan 31, 2011
"If I had to say I'm jaded it's sort of about the fact that people's attention is so focused on the web. And it feels to me like that's 10% of the computing landscape. If you look at what goes on in, say, biology. Huge, huge computational problems in biology. The people who do protein folding up in San Francisco, which is kind of everybody there, that stuff is really really cool. It sure doesn't show up on anybody's "cool" radar but, you know, all modern medicine research, it's computers. Right, it's computing. And none of that has any magic pixie dust coolness on it and modern materials. It's, again, all computer simulation and all the rest of that and the computing behind that and the rest of that, most people don't even think of it as computing because it's something that a scientist does. Talk to most people in physics, they spend most of their time writing code, not doing physics experiments. And it's just a cool world filled with thousands and thousands of different things and it feels like the web is only a corner of it."
I thought of the above thoughts again this morning when I saw the latest poll on java.net:
If the desktop is dead, why is there so much interest in improving it? Next, make sure to have a look at the comments below the chart above. People are surprised about the above results, but maybe they shouldn't be. Read "Why is your desktop app not a web app?", which is a compilation of quotes from actual enterprise Java developers. Executive summary—security and reliability. Just because you don't SEE all the desktop applications out there, doesn't mean that they don't exist. They exist in laboratories, in simulators, and in back offices in enterprises. (And many people who'd be able to verify this statement are not allowed to do so since the applications tend to be confidential, e.g., in the banking, aerospace, and military sectors!) Moreover, recent conversations I've had with Java enterprise consultants indicate that there's a perceptible shift away from the web and towards the desktop, for exactly the reasons stated above, i.e., security and reliability are becoming increasingly important in the enterprise, meaning that the web is becoming less of a viable platform for a very significant segment of computing problems. So, even when we're not looking at the purely scientific field, which is the area Gosling is specifically focused on in his comments, the relevance of the desktop is apparent.
James Gosling's comments also clarify why so many Java desktop application on the NetBeans Platform are scientific simulations of various kinds (from military to medicine). That's also a point I made in a conversation I had with Terrence Barr at JavaOne China, listen to the result here, i.e., an interview in the Java Spotlight Podcast (which I highly recommend, by the way).
It's an interesting thing that Oracle is now where so much of the computing happens, i.e., in the world of application development in the scientific world, on the desktop. And all thanks to the NetBeans Platform which has, over the past decade, created its niche precisely there, as the world's only modular Swing application framework.