Application Development Products of the Year 2001

Mar 1, 2002

Lauren Gibbons Paul

The quest to take Datamation Product of the Year honors in the application development category was too close to call in 2001. Macromedia Inc.'s JRun 3 and UltraDev 4 Studio, IBM Corp.'s Websphere Studio 4.0, and Sun Microsystems Inc.'s Java 2 SDK Enterprise Edition V1.3_01 shared the top spot in this hotly contested space, each collecting about 24% of the 292 votes cast.

Other popular tools in the category included Oracle Corp.'s 9i Developer Suite and Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP Bluestone Total-e-Server.

All of these vendors had a tough year.

"The expected revenues just were not there," says Rikki Kirzner, research director of enterprise application development and deployment in the Mountain View, Calif., office of International Data Corp. Companies began to pull back spending-and cut down on Web and other forms of application development-after the dot-com implosion. Sept. 11 only exacerbated the problem. Many companies were forced to put off planned innovations to their sites and other projects.

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The full list of winners

That's one reason why users particularly appreciated free developer tools such as Sun's Java 2 SDK Enterprise Edition V1.3_01.

"It's easy to use, fairly well documented. It comes with good examples," says Madhu Siddalingaiah, chief technology officer for Aquarius Solutions LLC, a Washington IT services firm. J2 SDK EE is not a production system, he adds, but it is useful for prototyping and testing.

"The big thing is ease of use. You don't have to go through huge manuals to figure out how to do what you need to do. It has everything you need, including a Cloudscape database," says Siddalingaiah, who has been working with Java since its debut. At 10 megabytes, the download is relatively lightweight, too. "Production systems are very heavy. Sometimes you just want a light tool to prototype and test. It's one more tool in my arsenal."

Sun was harder hit than other vendors in this category, according to Kirzner. The company had its first layoff ever in 2001. IBM and Macromedia fared better. IBM's Websphere Studio version 4.0 caught users' eyes because it is a full integration of all of IBM's app dev tools. "That's a good thing," says Kirzner.

Users continued to vote with their wallets for Macromedia tools. (Macromedia Flash 5.0 and Dreamweaver 4.0 were among the top-ranked in our 2000 contest).

"Macromedia ended up the year lower than they intended but they ended up OK," says IDC's Kirzner. One reason for this: Web professional development tools such as JRun 3 and UltraDev 4 Studio were the least affected by the downturn of any app dev tool.

The anthrax scare and 9/11-related travel fears were responsible for boosting e-commerce demand. As a result, many e-tailers and b2b site operators had to adjust their sites to handle increased traffic. "Web development was one of the few areas that showed growth last year," says Kirzner.

Dave Watts, chief technology officer for Washington Web developer Fig Leaf Software Inc., confirms many of his clients stuck to their Web projects, even in the face of last year's downturn. "A lot of our customers couldn't afford to defer this projects. They have mandates to get their content to the Web and they have to do it," he says.

Watts and the other 15 Fig Leaf Web developers have used Macromedia's JRun/Dreamweaver family of tools since they first appeared on the market several years ago. "I like these tools for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, they are always a little faster to market with certain innovations." He adds it takes two to three days for a developer to learn a competitive product such as Microsoft's Active Server Pages whereas only a half day or so to learn JRun.

Another key advantage of the Macromedia tool set is their openness. "These tools are cross-platform and not tied to any one vendor's platform. You can use UltraDev with anything you want. That kind of openness is very powerful," adds Tom Pizer, vice president of creative services for Fig Leaf.

Voters had a choice of the following nominees:
Macromedia JRun 3 UltraDev 4 Studio
Macromedia Inc.

HP Bluestone Total-e-Server 7.3
Hewlett-Packard Co.

IBM Websphere Studio Version 4.0
IBM Corp.

Java 2 SDK Enterprise Edition V 1.3_01 Release
Sun Microsystems Inc.

Oracle 9i Developer Suite
Oracle Corp.

BEA WebLogic Enterprise 6.1
BEA Systems Inc.

As a content developer, Pizer also appreciates the re-useability inherent in Macromedia UltraDev. "There really is no analog to UltraDev available on the market right now," he says.

The Coming Year

The application development market space faces some uncertainty this year. If the recession bottoms out and dissipates quickly, IT spending levels will recover by the end of the year, according to IDC estimates. If it continues, however, companies will again postpone or cancel planned development projects.

"Companies may have to focus on reining in the cost of development and deployment," says Kirzner.

But even if the recession continues, application development is likely to be one of the liveliest areas in the technology economy.

According to Kirzner, "Application development is crucial to maintaining the business and helping it grow, expand and survive. The tools vendors are actually leading the recovery into 2002."

Lauren Gibbons Paul is a freelance business/technology writer in Waban, Mass. She can be reached at


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