Tim Bray Interview

Excerpts from an interview with Sun’s Tim Bray:

A lot of useful information, such as stock market portfolios and credit card transactions, arrives at unpredictable intervals. RSS users don’t need to repeatedly visit their favorite web sites to check for updates, because when the site changes, they are notified quickly with a summary of what’s new. To know when one of your investments changes substantially in price, or to be able to track debits in your bank account, is inviting. Possibilities abound. RSS might be useful for tracking change requests during a software build or for bug tracking. So, there’s a lot of information that people would like to be automatically notified about.

.NET was created by a company with a historic focus on desktop applications. My view, though somewhat controversial, is that delivering applications through web browsers versus through custom applications is much preferable. And the CIOs of the world generally agree with me about this, because maintaining desktop applications increases total cost of ownership. It’s much easier to deploy, maintain, and update server-based applications and interact through a web browser. And when the web browser appeared in the mid-90’s, its popularity was obvious. People migrated to the browser for just about everything in very short order. Browser-based applications are the sweet spot for the entire industry.

Cellphones and PDAs with Java applications obviously have a role to play. But for the mainstream enterprise, PC/desktop, browser-based apps are the way to go. And Microsoft is all about being a desktop company. They have a place on 95% of the world’s business desktops, and they have an immense depth of experience about desktop applications and how to build and deliver them. And that shows in .NET. .NET has a huge amount of user interface machinery, which is a distraction from where the real sweet spot in business is, which is on browser-based applications.

Very high-performance global applications, such as Google, achieve much of their performance by running in memory, and not using the traditional disk database. Given the decreasing cost and increasing reliability of memory, there’s a growing class of enterprise applications that could run everything out of memory. This is going to require different thinking, both about how we build applications and about the required infrastructure. And since I think that enterprise applications written in the Java language are going to continue to be written in the Java language, we should think carefully about the kind of infrastructure necessary to support 100% memory-resident applications. I hope to work with people at Sun on this, and perhaps build some prototypes on my own.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.