Smalltalk, what Smalltalk? Java took center stage at New York’s intended celebration of its predecessor. A sense of foreboding is the best way to describe the mood at last week’s Smalltalk Solutions ’96 conference in New York. And the word on everyone’s lips was not Smalltalk, but Java. Motivation for the recent consolidation in the […]
Smalltalk, what Smalltalk? Java took center stage at New York’s intended celebration of its predecessor. A sense of foreboding is the best way to describe the mood at last week’s Smalltalk Solutions ’96 conference in New York. And the word on everyone’s lips was not Smalltalk, but Java. Motivation for the recent consolidation in the Smalltalk market – IBM Corp’s acquisition of Object Technology International Inc and the handing of Hewlett- Packard Co’s Smalltalk business to ParcPlace-Digitalk Inc – is in part attributed to Java’s rise (although the firms are loath to admit as much). What is evident is that Smalltalk does not play in today’s key software development areas, Web-Java and three- tier environments. Microsoft Corp doesn’t sell Smalltalk and it is not widely taught at universities. Analysts we spoke to said Java alone would be unlikely to send Smalltalk to the place where artificial intelligence and software engineering have gone and that the object-oriented language’s relatively small and loyal user base will continue to grow at a decent rate: If Smalltalk’s the answer, what’s the problem? one said. Smalltalk vendors we spoke to agree that Java is important for their market. Java is the Smalltalk story told correctly, one vendor mused. It doesn’t have all the tools and support that Smalltalk does, but it uses a similar virtual machine to run code, is object-oriented, low-cost and easy to use. Most of the Smalltalk shops we asked said they are hedging their bets, with Java versions of products already under way or on the drawing board. Routes to accommodate Java include creation of common development front-ends with a button enabling developers to generate Smalltalk or Java code.
Separate code base
ParcPlace-Digitalk Inc, spiritual home of Smalltalk, is currently figuring out how and which pieces of Java it will incorporate. It is also still working out how to get all of its products on to the same code base. Objects created using the VSE Visual Smalltalk Enterprise environment it inherited with the acquisition of Digitalk do not currently work with the ParcPlace VisualWorks environment. Distributed Smalltalk, Hewlett-Packard Co’s Corba 2-enabled version of VisualWorks that ParcPlace is now responsible for developing, distributing and supporting, is on a separate code base again. The company hasn’t yet made public a road map for integrating all three, but the non-appearance of a VisualWorks-VSE integration map promised by the end of last year (CI No 2,725), suggests that work has been put further back. Hewlett-Packard says it turned Distributed Smalltalk over to ParcPlace because it needed either to acquire a company to build a next-generation Smalltalk engine, or find a partner if it were to carry forward the core technology. Under the license terms, Hewlett-Packard gets a royalty on ParcPlace’s Distributed Smalltalk sales and will provide engineering support to develop future versions of the distributed product. Hewlett-Packard will also distribute the product in Europe, where ParcPlace is thin on the ground. Fast-growing C++ and Smalltalk training, consulting and technology development company ObjectSpace Inc, Dallas, Texas, says it has already experienced a huge demand for the Java training and consulting services it has begun to offer. The company will begin moving its Object/Catalog, /Sockets, /Metrics and /Systems away from Smalltalk starting with a new Web front- end for Object/Catalog later this month. It is up to 100 staff, from 45 a year ago, and says it will reach 200 by year-end. It has got another couple of US offices ready to come on stream and plans to open a UK subsidiary in a couple of months. As well as focusing efforts on vertical markets, the firm will turn the spotlight on its library and framework products: it plans to begin marketing its C++ framework technologies aggressively against Rogue Wave Software Inc, starting with a head-to-head advertising campaign. If Smalltalk appears to be under threat, C++ is definitely safe, it says. Around 50% of privately held Obj
ectSpace’s turnover is now derived from product sales. The company has no venture capital funding but says it has taken development cash from two unidentified companies who are paying ObjectSpace to develop products on their behalf. The products are to be unveiled towards the end of the year. It has previously said that it is doing work under non-disclosure agreement for Microsoft on Network Object Linking & Embedding (CI No 2,740).
IBM’s McGaughey: Smalltalk under attack from both ends
Skip McGaughey, IBM Corp marketing manager for VisualAge and advanced object-oriented development strategy, market, sales and planning, says Smalltalk is under attack from the bottom – Visual Basic and Delphi; and from above – Powersoft and Forte. C++ and Java will fight it out in the language wars, he says. IBM, which a couple of weeks ago acquired its Smalltalk supplier Object Technology International Inc, says it will implement versions of its VisualAge for Smalltalk graphical programming environment on Windows95 and NT. IBM Smalltalk, its implementation of Object Technology Smalltalk is already up under OS/2, AIX and Windows and will shortly be available for AS/400, as well as on Macintosh which is apparently connected to half of the AS/400 installed base. IBM says Object Technology will continue to enhance the Envy code repository and supply it to ParcPlace. Although a speedier version of the IBM System Object Model may eventually be used to distribute Smalltalk objects, right now the company’s distributed implementation uses a proprietary mechanism. Turkey and Brazil are hot for Smalltalk, IBM asserts.
Object Technology has kit for GemStone
Meantime, Object Technology International Inc is to create, support, maintain and enhance a version of its Envy/Developer repository for GemStone Systems Inc’s Smalltalk development environment and object database. GemStone will license, market and distribute it to its customer base. Object Technology asserts that C++ will never work in data processing department development labs because application programmers need a high- level language and visual programming tools.
Smalltalk market growing but numbers hard to come by
O2 Technology, to support java as soon as it can, has Smalltalk kit
O2 Technology Inc, Palo Alto, California, says it will support Java just as soon as it can. In the meantime, it has implemented an ODMG-93-compliant Smalltalk binding for its O2 object database, aiming to cover the 20% or 30% of the object market its C++ edition doesn’t yet reach. The Smalltalk binding means the same O2 database can be declared in and accessed from C++ and Smalltalk. O2 Smalltalk developer licenses sell for $3,000 per user from next quarter.
Smalltalk, born at Xerox PARC, saw finest hour in the Cold War
Adele Goldberg led the team that developed Smalltalk at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, the famous Xerox PARC. The CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, took control of it and built the pioneering Xerox Analyst for Cold War spooking. Venture capital funding saw Xerox spin out ParcPlace to commercialize Smalltalk. At around the same time, Computer Sciences Corp got funding from Ing C Olivetti & Co SpA to create a Smalltalk venture in Italy called Digitalk. Xerox sold base Smalltalk licenses to IBM Corp, Digitalk Inc and Object Technology International Inc, with which each got rights to class, protocol and comment names, but not to source, which each firm had to create.