Recently I have been having dejá vu back to the days of PowerSoft. If you are old enough to remember, PowerSoft was the leader in making graphical development practical for the masses – rather than the object oriented gurus. Back in the early 1990s when PowerSoft’s product called PowerBuilder was in its heyday, it had been able to achieve dominance over arch rival Gupta Technology and a myriad of other long forgotten competitors. Ironically, at the time Gupta had a much more sophisticated object oriented environment than PowerBuilder. But PowerBuilder was able to achieve leadership because the company found a way to make the traditional COBOL developer (and there were lots of them) very successful as graphical software designers. The secret was that while PowerBuilder professed to be an object oriented graphical development environment, it was actually a procedural environment that was familiar to the COBOL developer. Therefore, the skills that had made this generation of developers successful in an earlier generation provided the platform for a new career path in client/server development. Therefore, PowerBuilder took the market by storm and set the path for the early success of client/server computing.
Now, fast forward to today and the advent of Web 2.0. I am seeing lots of interesting tools such as Nexaweb (http://www.nexaweb.com/site/site07/index.html), Jackbe (http://www.jackbe.com/index.php), and Kapow (http://www.kapowtech.com/). All these companies have a common strategy: they want to become the PowerBuilder of this new generation of application development environments. To create a rich, collaborative environment requires a level of sophistication that would prohibit less technical developers from participating. Therefore, just as PowerBuilder provided a way for the masses to create a graphical first generation environment, so this next generation of development tools will bring Web 2.0 to a broad audience. These web development environments provide the dynamic, stateful approach needed to create Web 2.0 environments.
I think that this movement towards Web 2.0 and these abstracted tools to support them will complete the picture of a service oriented architecture. The Web 2.0 environments will make the browser environment a full fledge participant in enterprise computing. Over time, we’ll see lots of business people creating compelling business services in this way focused on innovative, collaborative software that provides a rich client environment that provides sophisticated communications, as well as a stateful distributed computing platform. This is not an easy feat but one that some innovative players are going to grab to become the PowerBuilder of the Web 2.0 set.