Google Spreadsheets Mean the end of Java

Or to be more accurate ‘Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java as we know it’.
Google Spreadsheets Logo
Think about this. Who pays your wages Mr Java-Developer-who-has-just-had-a-couple-of-years-at-the-top-of-the-pile? Clients, or if you’re in a larger organisation , the business folks (i.e.’internal’ clients). Do you think any of them care about Java? Do any of them know what Java is? All they want is to get things done, quickly , and with as few mistakes as possible.

These business people would be happy to run their organisations on Spreadsheets. Do you remember the cartoon where Dilbert convinced the pointy haired boss that he could fly the plane using Excel? There’s more than a element of truth to this. I know of at least one US Fortune 100 company that (until recently) conducted most of it’s operations on little more than Microsoft Office and duct-tape. It worked, not very well, but it worked.

Until now , the next line would be ‘Excel (or any other type of Spreadsheet) is not secure / scalable / sharable / not web friendly’. That was until Google launched their Docs and Speadsheets. It’s an online version of Office with some spreadsheet functionality. Play with it a bit and you’ll see that there’s plenty missing. But this being Google , I’m willing to put good money on

  • (a) new features rolled out (think steamroller) and
  • (b) These Spreadsheets being massivly scalable / secure / sharable.

This being Google, there is also an API (developer page here). It’s got massive holes in it (e.g. you can’t yet use it to create a new spreadsheet). But when Microsoft bring out their version of online spreadsheets (and they will) not only will they clone the Google API (to get market share), they’ll need to go one further and introduce new features / remove the usage restrictions in order to compete.

So, secure, scalable, sharble online spreadsheets are here to stay. So lets take a look at Mr. (or Ms.) Pointy haired boss thinking about their new project:

  1. Hmm, I think we need to be able to gather which health plans our employees are enrolled in.
  2. OK, I’ll throw together a spreadsheet to show people what I want
  3. Before I’ll give to our friendly Java developer and let him ‘do’ a website from it.
    Soon I’ll just share this on Google.
  4. Great , Loads of people are now using it, I’ll just the (Ruby / PHP / Insert other language here) guy to add one or two extra features.
  5. Most Excellent. Why don’t we spin this off as a Web 2 company and sell it to EBay??

There you have it, Massively scalable , Highly secure websites (see Google Authentication API), without needing to know anything about EJB, JMX , JBoss, JDBC or any of the hard won knowledge that us Enterprise Java Developers have built up over the last 7-8 years. I’m exaggerating, but not much.

What do you think? Is Enterprise Java dead, or is Web 2 just another boost and a slightly different way of doing things for us Java people?

Other Java Posts from Technology in Plain English

Some other notes:

This article was originally published on the O’Reilly books OnJava Website.


  1. I agree 100% that the web is the platform, and that Web services (as in Web based services and not WS-* horse-*) are the future. Amazon are also pushing the boat out with the Elastic Compute Cloud and S3 storage. And there are plenty of smaller players providing neat niche services. Soon we’ll be composing apps almost entirely from remote services provided by third parties in dynamic languages like Groovy or Ruby. Although, I’m sure not all Enterprises will entrust their data to external companies (in many cases it would be illegal to do so), so I’m sure the enterprise dev consultancy market will hold up too.

  2. Interesting post. I find it a bit confusing anyways.

    Personally I don´t think that this has anything to do with Java at all. I mean, there are hundreds of good end client Java application over there that offer you precious Java APIs hiding every creepy detail in the backend, and google docs & spreadsheets API is just another one more.

    So well, if what you want to say is that finally there is a real competitor for Microsoft Office suite, then I would really doubt it. Personally I don´t see comany companies working with such a toy, specially when they don´t really need to work through the Internet only to switch to google buzz. And even most of the companies wouldn´t like to have their employees all the day browsing through the Internet. You´ve say it in your own arguments, why should they change their office+intranet solutions for a google+internet solution if everything already works? just only because it´s google? I don´t think so.

    Finally, web 2.0 isn´t more than marketing stuff. We all know it. Just a good idea, take all the cool internet applications that can run in a browser and tag them all under a good marketing term. Good for the inventor. But unfortunately, Internet 2.0 would be more accurate, because that effect happens everywhere, even Office. A typical and trivial example of Internet 2.0 application, Wow or any online desktop game.

  3. This has to be one of the least intelligent blog posts I’ve read in a *long* time…

    Where on earth do you come up with the idea that Google Documents/Spreadsheets is going to kill Java? Not only is this notion completely absurd, but keep in mind Google has released their Spreadsheet API for a number of languages…including Java. In fact, the most up-to-date version of their Google Data API (which can be used with Spreadsheets) is available *only* in Java. From their perspective, they want as many languages as possible to integrate with it. It’s simply good business.

    This is the unfortunate side effect of the internet…it allows for mass distribution of terribly misinformed ideas.

  4. @James

    Did you you read the first line of the article, or just the headline? For info, the first line is ‘or rather Google Spreadsheets mean the end of Java as we know it’.

    Online services (such as from Google) will be the core of the next generation of web applications, leaving Java to interact with them via the API (as you point out). Instead of Java being the core, it is now little more than a (very powerful) scripting language – and this is from somebody with many years investment in learning / using / teaching Java.

    Now tell me why this is the ‘least intelligent’ or ‘misinformed thing you’ve heard – just don’t confuse your feelings for the Java language with the idea that it will be top dog forever.

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