Return to Components

Our first look at components praised Brad Cox for his keen insight on the nature of the object revolution – that it would help to deliver components on a broad and scaled basis. But the actual evolution of scaled components took a rocky road as is evident in this PC Magazine article by Michael Miller in the June 25th, 1996 issue in which he describes Rebuilding Componentware.

Miller spells out the attraction in the abstract – “Take the best part of todays huge, standalone programs and combine them to create applications tailored to our individual needs … companies such as Apple, IBM, and Microsoft started conjuring up these ghosts several years ago. But in practice, these efforts have resulted in a lot more hype than progress”
Here are some of the component efforts and commentaries:
Apple and IBM – OpenDoc, second kick at the open components model dies with the rise of Windows and Java and the failure of Apple to deliver nextgen OS.
IBM SOM-System Object Model, the equivalent of OLE but with true object base. OS/2 and AIX targets, but died with OS/2. Lacked critical mass of 3rd party components.
Microsoft VBx/OCX – at first visual GUI objects reusable in Visual Basic and then expanded to database and other middleware connectivity operations. Many 3rd party suppliers, Windows only-Proprietary Trap.
Microsoft OLE-Object Linking and Embedding tools allows drag and drop moving of one document type, say a ESRI Map to Lotus AmiPro word processing document. Windows primarily, a host of vendors including Dec, HP, Software AG attempt to port portions to various flavors of Unix. Proprietary Trap.
Sun Java – Applets, Beans, JAR packages, Servlets – allow delivering components at different levels of granularity. The key added ingredient, cross platform by design – write once deploy anywhere supported by huge Base libraries and highly portable JVM-Java Virtual Machine runtime engine. Looks like the real component deal.

Even Microsoft, late to the Internet, embraces Java. As Miller comments : “Not to be outdone, Microsoft is now saying Windows will be Java enabled as well – though exactly what that means remains unclear”.

How prophetic .

In an accompanying article in the same issue of PC Magazine by John Dvorak entitled Java: A Born Loser, John argues against Java. The gist of Johns argument is that Java represents the forces of centralization (Client Server development was already in full swing and the Internet is about to bring about a winning C/S formula that stands to this day) and clearly the trend has been to decentralization. Redmond must have picked up on this argument because in two years time they started a fight with Sun over Microsofts ability to change Java however they so choose – and then shed crocdile tears when they lost and had to poison the well for Java by supporting an obsolete version of the JVM on IE and therefore 75-80% of browsers then and 90%++ now. The result is that component development has blossomed on the server and embedded processors and PDAs while being a more mixed blessing on the desktop. But even on the desktop alternate technologies like Flash, DHTML, and even J2ME came to the fore as components flourished in new ways – I think inventive Nature abhors even a proprietary vacuum.


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