Stephen wrote a great post based on data from our new RedMonk analytics platform the other day that set me thinking. Its easy to blithely assume that all developers use Macs these days, but the data doesn’t bear such a thesis out.
Briefly, Ian Skerrett of Eclipse asserted that, according to Eclipse’s community survey data, Mac had fallen behind Linux as an operating system of choice for developers. Rolling up their numbers, I get the following distribution of operating systems:
Windows is the easy winner, but Linux is as clearly second to Mac’s third. The primary takeaway for most is that Linux traction is strong amongst Eclipse users. The obvious next question is whether this trend holds amongst a wider development community or whether it’s a more localized Eclipse phenomenon.
The Apple news wouldn’t be so problematical if broad questions weren’t also currently being asked about Java governance and commitment – basically who will support the development required to ensure an awesome Java experience on the Mac going forward, especially given all the neat tricks Apple has hitherto done to make Java work so slickly on the machine? The business problem is that the only constituency really hurt by the news are Java developers- that is to say folks using Eclipse or Netbeans: Adobe, Google, IBM, Oracle, SAP developers, more than end-user customers of same? hmmmm.
Stephen’s data led me to consider another alternative: how about Microsoft as a white knight for the Java development industry? While I appreciate this sounds like an extremely weird scenario… lets consider the facts. Windows is already the leading platform in the space, so its really a question of supporting existing customers. Even by doing nothing Microsoft is likely to pick up some of those that feel they can’t keep using Macs for their day job. Of course some might go virtualised, or move to Linux. But Microsoft could pick up malcontents.
Its important to note that Microsoft has been making a long slow road to support of the the kind of open source innovation that Java supported. It has already invested in the Eclipse ecosystem via Eclipse Tools for Microsoft Silverlight. So why not invest directly in making Microsoft the absolute best place to run Eclipse or other JVM software? Certainly laptop makers want to appeal to developers, because for all RedMonk’s data the perception is that the cool kids all run Macs. Microsoft could work on a Windows developer workstation edition with its OEM partners. Windows Vista sucked too much for developers – but Windows 7 is a lot better, and we’re not even into SP1 territory yet. Some developers use Windows Server on their machines.
My basic premise is this – at the moment everything is in play in the market, and if Microsoft is really serious about attracting developers- all developers – to Windows then it needs to be strategic about Java. Its investing in supporting WordPress, Joomla and other open source technology through its Web Platform Installer Tool (gotta love the .aspx URL, eh). It recently lost Jim Hugunin to Google, at about the same time it open sourced IronPython and IronRuby, dynamic language implementations to run on the Microsoft Dynamic Language Runtime (DLR).
Jim had this to say about his departure:
However, I leave feeling respect for the many great people and products produced here. I will suffer some pain when I have to write code in Java now that I’ve learned to love the elegance of C#. I will suffer some frustrations when I have to use Google Docs instead of the finely polished UI in Microsoft Office. More than anything, I will always value the chance that I had to work with and learn valuable lessons from some truly great people.
But more interestingly in the context of this piece: