The future of “Java” is with Google, and on Dalvik

(subtitle: “The Future of Microsoft, sealed?” )

I think that going forward, considering the following,

a) James Gosling and Jim Hugunin being on board Google
b) Google being a Java shop as much as it is a Python one
c) Java on JVM being controlled by Oracle (NOT a good thing)
d) dominance of Android and hence assured proliferation of Java the language, *BUT*, on the Dalvik VM rather than the JVM

I’d like to make a bold prediction:

Google plan (or *should* be planning) to enhance the Dalvik VM  to one day equal and eventually surpass the JVM’s abilities and give .NET/CLR a run for its money.

Jim Hugunin is very familiar with the advantages of .NET’s multilanguage hosting ability and it would be extremely ironic if he did not advocate the same for Dalvik ultimately.

If James Gosling is the architect behind Hotspot (is he though?), then Google have the key people they need to move the Android environment forward in preparation for the eventual extinction of the Microsoft ecosystem.

It should be painfully obvious to all but the most ostrich-headed observers within Microsoft that their company is not making the right moves anywhere near fast enough in the mobile area to stem the Android tsunami.  While it is likely that Windows Phone 7 may eventually be able to basically *buy* some market share (15-20% at least) in the phone area, what does this leave for the tablet/slate area for which Windows 7 (or any other Win32/64-based OS for that matter) is a very poor fit?  Apple was the first company to start actualizing the benefits of integrating across desktop, mobile, and phone, and Google are doing very well at bringing the latter two together (but still sucks at the first), whereas Microsoft still seem to be rather clueless as to how to play the otherwise excellent card (e.g. .NET) they hold.

The future will belong to whichever one of the 3 companies is able to cement all three environments under a unified development and app/media delivery platform.  (RIM should just forget it and go Android or WP7, and I predict they eventually will, but only once their market share has gone below 20%… or if Microsoft decides to offer them a Nokia-like deal, but either way, short of a revolutionary reinvention, RIM is destined to become a niche player in the smartphone/mobile device arena)  Currently, even though Apple is a bit ahead of the game by offering an App Store under OS X, my bet is on Google, because they are the ones who have the momentum in the emerging mobile and phone markets.  Linux has all but confirmed its viability for desktop usage so I feel that Google can make one major fumble with ChromeOS (which I think they are already in the process of making) and still be in a good position overall.

Initially, I thought that Apple, despite the stingy closedness of their ecosystem, stood a chance at dominating the future, but the new batch of excellent Android slates plus the dominance of Android on the phone market tells me that it is Google which stands to inherit the throne of Platform Emperor that Microsoft has been steadily relinquishing.  (Is it really coincidental that Google is starting to backtrack on the “Don’t be Evil?” mantra? e.g. Honeycomb’s “delayed” open-source release…)  It also seems likely that iPad 2 represents the peak of Apple slate/tablet market share, in the same way that iPhone 4 (maybe even 3GS) was for smartphone market share and that it’s all downhill from here on for Apple.

If the prediction I made at the start of the article is correct and Google do intend to evolve DalvikVM along the lines of the CLR, then they will at last possess the one remaining important trump card that only MS has right now.  Once this happens – barring a miraculous surge in MID (mobile internet device) market share for Microsoft – then the fate of Microsoft will have been sealed, while Google’s future will be all but cemented.

It is, in fact, very hard right now to see how Microsoft can win.  First, Microsoft don’t have a credible slate OS (not even a rumor of one on the horizon).  No amount of artificially purchased marketshare in the smartphone area will compensate for the lack of a proper slate OS to synergize with. Apple’s iOS confirmed the importance of this synergy and Google was very quick to realize the same.  When will Microsoft realize that a proper slate OS just cannot be Windows-desktop-based (or at least not Windows-desktop-UI based)?!  Now, even if Microsoft ultimately wakes up to their senses (this looks like it will be some time in the far future) and come up with a proper touch-supporting UI, they will still definitely have to bribe/buy market share, e.g. strike a deal to have their mobile OS on dominant slate devices like Kindle and Nook and Galaxy Tab, just to be able to remain relevant in an Android-dominated world.

If the prediction that DalvikVM will eventually evolve into a CLR-like multi-language hosting managed environment is not just wishful thinking, there in fact, remains just one reason for anyone to still root for Microsoft today, the fact that they seem to be the only ones around who believe in supporting the pen input mode. While I don’t see what incentive Google will have to support pen input, this differentiation alone will definitely not be enough to save Microsoft.

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