In an article in the July 18th edition of the Wall Street Journal, Jan Vitek, a professor of computer science at Purdue University was quoted saying that after the Windows XP operating system launches, Web pages that depend on Java won’t work unless the user first goes to download the Java Virtual Machine from the Microsoft website.
"This favors Microsoft's new technologies, and will inconvenience consumers," he said. "…If you want your Web page accessible to the largest number of people, you may want to drop Java" and switch to Microsoft's competing set of products, which is under development and is known as .Net.
Since many of the Rich Media advertising companies currently rely on Java to do their magic, I began wondering how this change will affect the future of online advertising. According to both agencies and technology vendors I interviewed for this article, not much, at least in the near-term.
According to Karim Sanjabi, CEO of interactive agency Freestyle Interactive, it is going to take some time before the penetration of Java is diminished enough to be a threat to Java advertising. “We’ve always developed with technologies that have 90% penetration in the market. We want to give our advertisers an experience. They shouldn’t have to think about what technology is used. In the next 12 months, we won’t see much change in the support of Java.” But he adds, “As an agency, we have to keep changing.”
David Haynes, CEO of AudioBase, which creates Java-based technology solutions for creating voice enabled e-commerce sites, sees this as a positive thing: “The number of PC and Browser combinations we have to support is monstrous. Any slimming of that field is wonderful news from our perspective. We always have stood for a seamless technology solution. Yes, it’s Java today. But we have to support another technology in the future, we’ll be happy to do it.” A good thing too: AudioBase just raised a $5 million round last month, so they plan on being here to find out what happens.
Eric Picard, Co-founder and Director of Product Development at Bluestreak, is also showing no signs of worry about any future Microsoft trends. “I’m not as concerned in the short term as we would be in the long term. Currently, however, we are developing solutions that will mitigate this problem long term.”
He adds, “But there’s no question that this helps Macromedia Flash. Flash is certainly strengthened by any weakening of Java in the online advertising space. Which is one reason Bluestreak has adopted Flash. In past few months have taken the position that we are technology agnostic. No mater what technology is used we will serve it and we will manage it because that’s what we do.”
My own opinion is that while there will be a significant change in the online advertising technology industry as a result of Windows XP, Rich Media usage in advertising will only increase as a result.
Flash will not be the only benefactor in all of this: Windows Media Player and Real Player – as an advertising vehicle – will also become stronger as Java-based video and audio solutions are re-tooled.
This change will have little impact on companies, such as Bluestreak, Enliven, and Unicast, who have been diversifying their offerings and moving towards a Flash solution over the last year. And agencies, like Freestyle, will use the best tools available at the time.
But companies that rely completely on Java-based rich media solutions need to carefully weigh their next move. Technology takes time to develop, so they need to carefully plan next year’s products and think about what it will be like to live in a Java-less world. They need to plan their strategy carefully and broaden their product line to help them through the transition when half the world is XP and half the world (the shrinking half) is Java enabled.
Let me tell you. It is not an easy task.
-- Bill McCloskey is Founder and CEO of Emerging Interest, an organization dedicated to educating the Internet advertising and marketing industry about rich media and other emerging technologies. He may be reached at email@example.com.