Now playing at a data centre near you: Software Wars, starring Scott McNealy as Luke Javawalker, Bill Joy as Jini Wan-Kenobi, and James Gosling as Code-a. Also featuring Steve Ballmer as Darth Windows, Bill Gates as the evil Emperor, and a cast of 1000 marketing executives as Imperial stormtroopers.
Fortunately, we don't have to line up to pay $US8.50 in order to see a prequel so we can understand how this mess came about. After all, the US Department of Justice continues to replay the history of the software galaxy four days a week in a Washington court room.
At this stage of our movie, the rebel alliance has just been formed, and the various Sun-Netscape Alliance factions are determining how best to free the galaxy from the clutches of the Emperor and his evil minions. But this is where the script of our little drama deviates from the film.
Instead of The Force being with Luke and the Sun-Netscape Alliance, The Force -- better known in the world of economics as market forces -- is actually with the audience, also known as the customer. And although market forces -- which take the form of Java, Extensible Markup Language, and Linux -- are still in the very early stages of development, it's only a matter of time before both the Sun-Netscape Alliance and Microsoft are usurped by competitors that fully leverage these and other Web technologies.
This is because both Sun and Microsoft are attempting to slow the technological progress march to protect vested interests. In Sun's case, this takes the form of strategies such as i-Planet that are locked into Sun hardware. In Microsoft's case, the silliness takes the form of trying to protect a set of Windows APIs that is at the end of its useful life cycle.
The good news is that market forces, namely start-ups backed by venture capitalists, are already putting the necessary capital in place to dismantle both companies.
So the question is, can the Sun-Netscape Alliance and Microsoft adapt to the new forces shaping the galaxy, or will they both be forever consigned to the scrap heap of history?