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Beyond Java: A Glimpse at the Future of Programming Languages

October 12, 2005

Sebastopol, CA--When a dominant language or technology is in its prime, there's a blissful ignorance stage. This is the stage when, according to Bruce Tate, ignoring alternatives works in your favor. "When a new language arrives with the power and dominance of a Java or C++, you can afford to ignore alternatives for awhile," says Tate. "But if you don't accurately identify the end of the cycles, you can get steamrolled." He points out that suddenly the competition will have the jump on you, with much better productivity leading to better quality and more customers. "When you enter the transition time," Tate cautions, "you'd better start paying attention."

Tate, a long-time Java programmer and author of five books, including the Jolt award-winning Better, Faster Lighter Java (O'Reilly), admits unashamedly that he has liked having his head in the sand: "It was easy, and productive, and politically safe." But after living in blissful ignorance for five years or more, an experience led him to question some of his assumptions about Java and to recognize some real limitations in the Java language and many of the frameworks that power it. This experience led to the writing of his latest book, Beyond Java (O'Reilly, US $24.95).

"I was working an a project with Justin Gehtland with a small startup in Austin. We implemented a simple application with Spring, Hibernate, and Webwork, the classic lightweight stack of technologies for Java. We were pleased," recalls Tate. "On a whim, we both decided to try Ruby on Rails over the same weekend. I called Justin to tell him I'd implemented the model on Rails, but he told me he'd implemented the whole application, in four nights! We were both blown away. As a Java guy, I pulled back to do some research, and I found that compared to the so-called dynamic languages, Java was limited. Further interesting innovations in dynamic languages were happening, and some of them were doing things that Java couldn't. Then, this book came pouring out."

In Beyond Java, Tate offers an honest assessment of why Java has been such a powerful tool, showing the ways in which it has advanced the art of computer programming. He is quick to note that Java is still king of the hill. "In fact, powerful and compelling motivations still drive new investment in Java," he says, and itemizes some of these: the Java community is vibrant; most major commercial vendors support Java or a close derivative (C#); open source is thriving in its own right; and academic institutions teach Java development and do research on Java-related problems.

But he also shows where it's holding us back. As his premise unfolds, readers learn that:

  • Java is moving away from its base. Hardcore enterprise problems may be easier to solve, but the simplest problems are getting harder to solve.
  • Java is showing signs of wear, and interesting innovations are beginning to appear outside of Java.
  • It's time to start paying attention again. It's time to look at the horizon, beyond Java.

    Tate looks at other languages and frameworks and asks hard questions: What do these languages do better? Could any of them become the next "big new thing?" What will the tools of the future look like? Will they look like J2EE, or will they look like Ruby on Rails? Or, will they be even more radical, like continuation servers? In addition to his own insights, Tate includes interviews with leaders of the open source Java and Ruby communities: Glenn Vanderburg, Ted Neward, Justin Gehtland, James Duncan Davidson, David Heinemeier Hansson, Jason Hunter, and many others.

    Whether or not readers agree with Tate's conclusions, they are certain to find the book stimulating and provocative. The book will challenge readers to consider how they're writing software, what makes them productive, and what holds them back. Above all, Beyond Java will serve as a gentle wake-up call, preparing Java programmers to recognize the next big thing--whatever it may be.

    Early praise for Beyond Java:

    "The next big thing is waiting in the wings, ready to take off the way Java did ten years ago. This book might well get you in at the ground floor. Enjoy the future!"
    --Dave Thomas, The Pragmatic Programmers LLC

    "Bruce Tate puts into words what many have felt: there's life after Java. By spotting and highlighting contenders, he illuminates possible successors in a multitude of important niches. This book opens the door for talking about what comes after Java."
    --David Heinemeier Hansson, inventor of Ruby on Rails

    Additional Resources:

    Beyond Java
    Bruce Tate
    ISBN: 0-596-10094-9, 185 pages, $24.95 US, $34.95 CA
    1-800-998-9938; 1-707-827-7000

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