"Going out with a bang" has acquired new meaning in 1999, especially for Microsoft which, for the second year in a row, has to gauge its annual achievements by assessing how much damage the hand of the law can do to what is arguably the world's largest monopoly.
Last year, it was the MS-enhanced Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) used as a Microsoft beating stick, forcing the vendor to fall back into line with the rest of the Sun-standard-respecting developer community. Microsoft counterattacked by vowing to make all of its products XML-enabled, but ensuring that its brand-power transcends the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds was impeded once again late this year when the DOJ branded the software behemoth a monopoly and the industry started pondering its possible break-up.
The news sent Red Hat shares skyrocketing, with shareholders realising what the industry has known for some time - that the steady increase in the development of server-based Linux applications and the momentum with which Linux has been gathering the support of enterprise technology vendors in 1999 could see the geek-favourite go further than ever imagined.
While condemning one software house monopoly, the DOJ planted the seeds for the growth of another market bully: the America Online/Netscape and Sun Microsystems conglomerate, also known as the Sun-Netscape Alliance. The DOJ approved of AOL's acquisition of what used to be the world's favourite browser maker (Netscape's market share has fallen to less than 30 per cent), blessing the birth of the strategic alliance with Sun Microsystems in the process. Instead of being Microsoftised, the 21st century Internet-wired globe may well be communicating through the Sun-Netscape Alliance's iPlanet range that was introduced with pomp and anticipation earlier this year.
Sun showed what some future monopoly could be like by developing a Java-based chip for the emerging information-appliances market, while at the same time repeatedly obstructing a number of attempts by the developer community to standardise Java.
Luckily, what becomes of software monopolies is unlikely to affect the continuous rise of the Internet and independent software vendors (ISVs), Internet service providers (ISPs) and application service providers (ASPs), all of whom are preparing for the Web's third-generation incarnation with increasing enthusiasm. Supposedly featuring Extensible Markup Language as its centrepiece, the Web of your making is expected to become an "application integration architecture" acting as a gateway for business-to-business transactions. A number of smaller and medium-sized developers have spent the last 12 months developing such an infrastructure with the likes of Melbourne developer MultiEmedia.com (see profile on page 65) and Brisbane ASP startup eGlobal leading the charge down under.
And while application service provision was on everyone's lips, prompting developers to become even more Web-centric in creating and marketing their software through the electronic-delivery model that is poised to sweep the ever-growing global Internet audience off its retail-shopping feet, Web development continued to boom, spurred on by the migration of real businesses into the virtual space where up to $95 billion will have been generated in revenues by the close of the year.
The heralds of wireless application protocol (WAP) technology last year predicted that WAP development was set to take off in 1999, but this personal mob-ility-supporting technology is only just taking its first steps on Australian soil, with Ericsson announcing the first Australian Mobile Internet Developers Program last week.
The widely anticipated rise of component-based application building, on the other hand, has seen strong growth with the likes of Active Software and ComponentSource.com releasing software tools and software component-delivery models to encourage the trend.
And while the conventional part of the developer community worked tire-lessly on ushering Java into the enterprise space and migrating enterprise to the Net, its counterparts in the subcultural terrain of development (also known as hacking) worked equally hard on producing a record number of lethal viruses inspired by the names of former girlfriends (Melissa) and by CIO-terrifying fauna (worms).
Meanwhile, members of that other underground layer of the software industry, piracy, evolved into a new group - the cyber squatters - forcing Victorian domain registrar Melbourne IT to bring the first lawsuit for domain name piracy before international courts.
Yet, as fitting and eventful as it was, 1999 is unlikely to be remembered as anything else but the year the developer community spent anticipating its biggest real-life test to date: Y2K. And did the community get a pass mark? Well, check ARN next year for details. In the meantime, happy code-weaving for the next century.
1999 STORIES IN DEVELOPER SOLUTIONS
Online Sales wins site redevelopment contract with Ericsson.
Keycorp releases MULTOS 4.02-based smart card.
Progress Software grows thanks to resellers.
International Software Services wins New York Stock Exchange contract.
FishTech and Sentor win Beacon Awards at Lotusphere.
Presence Online launches Domino-based e-commerce publishing and distribution environment aptrix.
Microsoft pulls ahead of Netscape and unveils Internet Explorer 5.
Lotus begins shipping Notes R5.
Sausage Software acquires Electrical Alchemy.
Concord Australia searches for VARs.
Federal Government puts The Copyright Amendment Bill before Parliament.
Java standardisation discord heightens.
Inprise launches JBuilder 3.
Allaire jumps on Java bandwagon by acquiring Live Software.
Internet developer Spike lists on ASX.
Compuware announces e-comm plans.
LibertyOne continues move into Web development, acquires NZ Web.
Concord Australia teams with Sybase on intranet suite.
MultiEmedia goes international.
HP and Oracle announce joint Net software development.
IBM pitches new OS/390 for Net transactions.
Microsoft warms up to renting apps.
Software Showcase proves a winner for developers.
Web site development booming.
IBM pumps support for Linux app developers.
Technology One IPO offer oversubscribed.
Hosting the future for developers.