Why read FoRK?

Ron Resnick (resnick@interlog.com)
Mon, 13 Jan 1997 20:41:18 -0500 (EST)

At 10:13 AM 1/13/97 -0800, Ernest N. Prabhakar wrote:

>So, how come I haven't heard much from the rest of FoRK? Does
>nobody besides Tim and I follow the Apple deal with drooling

Actually, no.

Perhaps to your amazement, some of us are on FoRK because of
the occasional stuff that comes through on the future of a networked world.
Distributed objects hitting the Web mainstream with gobs of bandwidth
and reliable services, that kind of thing.

Recent FoRk stuff I've paid attention to has included the bits on
Superdistribution and amorphous computing. The rest of it I generally
skim quickly and chuck.

For the record, since I'm spouting anyway, my own views on NeXT/Apple
are a bit of shrug. OS's come and go. Haven't you heard? The desktop
OS kerfuffle was *last* decade's fight - this is the 90's.
If I get finicky, I'd admit to a
bit of Unix bias, but so what? In a world of wide-open (as opposed to
just "open") distributed sw running transparently from supercomputers
down to your toaster, cross-platform binary support is what it's about.
That's why MS wants to entrench the Windows APIs throughout the network
using ActiveX - to make the de facto global binary standard based
on wintel.

And that's why the only serious contender I pay much
attention to is Java - Java bytecode & Java virtual machine combine to form
a global binary standard, while Beans is set to offer the dynamic
plug&play component model, and RMI, serialization etc. offer a
first crack at robust services. Put it all together, and you have the makings
of JavaOS. Java has a long way to go - granted.
But it is set to meet the technical criteria for the distributed computing
environment of the future, and it's the only serious threat to MS domination
I can see. CORBA? Not on its own - only as a supporting actor while Java
takes central stage.

So what does this have to do with Mac/NeXT? They're desktop OSs. Sure,
NeXT has a distributed model. But no one uses it! There's Taligent out
there, Newi, lots of "nice" distributed architectures. But they don't count
unless they are acquiring critical mass.

Think about it: Unix, Mac, Windows, whatever desktop
OS you run today, isn't your browser pretty much your number one app
today? And when increasingly more and more of what you do and expect
from your digital world comes off the network and through your graphical
window onto it, that browser and the guts below it *is* your OS,
your workspace, the place where you
run your applications (sorry, your component space :-).

For a gushy metaphor, try this: The desktop OS today is like the cocoon that
the caterpillar (the browser) has embedded itself into. When that
caterpillar is ready, it sheds its cocoon, regardless of what it is, to
become the butterfly, beautiful and fully functional on its own. The only
real question left is - what's the binary standard for the butterfly -
archaic Windows disguised as ActiveX, or Java? The cocoon? It just
blows away in the wind....