Java, the Internet language often heralded as the great white hope for enterprise computing, has not been good news for everyone.
ParcPlace-Digitalk has blamed increased interest in the Internet and Java for its decision to drop Visual Smalltalk Enterprise (VSE), a development tool it inherited following ParcPlace's acquisition of Digitalk in 1995.
ParcPlace had planned to integrate its own Smalltalk environment, VisualWorks, with the Digitalk Smalltalk family to create a new product, codenamed Jigsaw. This project has now been dropped.
Richard Dym, vice president of marketing at ParcPlace, said: "VisualWorks is our most popular product. Visual Smalltalk Enterprise represents only 10% of our revenue." VSE has around 5,000 developers worldwide.
ParcPlace said it will offer VSE customers a migration path to VisualWorks and the VisualWave tools. "For customers who have bought support with ParcPlace we will be offering VisualWorks or VisualWave at no cost," confirmed Dym. The products normally cost between $4,500 (#2,800) and $6,500 each per developer licence each. "For those of our VSE customers interested in moving to distributed computing, we are saying come along with us," Dym added.
In a letter to "friends and customers" published on the Internet, ParcPlace-Digitalk cited Java as having had a negative impact on its core Smalltalk business.
For the third quarter of fiscal 1996, ended 31 December 1996, the firm reported a net loss of $6.9 million (#4.3 million). Revenues for the quarter were down 40% to $8.1 million, compared to $13.6 million the previous year.
Dym said: "Where companies are looking for language-based solutions, they have been distracted. This has slowed down the adoption of Smalltalk, while they test Java."
Neil Ward-Dutton, a consultant at researcher Ovum, commented: "Java is a good springboard for educating people on the benefits of cross-platform development." He added that while Smalltalk is a pretty mature technology, invented by Xerox Parc in the late 70s, "it's an OO (object oriented) environment. This turned people off until Java came about."
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