It's been a heavy week to start learning about WebObjects...

by Russell Miles

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Ok, this is NOT going to be another "Mac-tel" post, I promise. This week has been tough (and it's only Tuesday as I write this!); us Mac developers have had ups, we've had downs, we've probably had nausea with the constant "do we care, should we care" concerning Apple and Intel's now-formal relationship - it's been an interesting ride so far.

But I've probably had a bit more fun than most. I chose this week to begin to learn about WebObjects. I know, any Mac Enterprise developer worth his salt has already hit on WebObjects being the amazing tool that it undoubtedly is. Even in my short time playing with it, it's knocked me sideways with how intuitively easy it is to get a nice web-based application up and running. WebObjects is full of all those "wow, that's how it should be done" features - but this posting is not about those.

So I'll get to my point. I looked at WebObjects before today, at version 5.2.x and saw:

  • Standards Compliance

  • Platform Independence - you can develop and run on Windows and Mac, you can even deploy to Solaris officially

  • Killer Tools for everything from a vanilla Web Application through to a Java Client Application using Java Webstart

but now I see for WebObjects 5.3:

  • "Mac OS X" Standards Compliance - ok, we can still play with web services

  • "Mac OS X" development tools only
  • It "might" deploy to other platforms .... but we're not going to make a big song and dance about it

What happened to "development on Mac and Windows". Worse still, there is uncertainty that you can even deploy on any other platform than OS X. Seriously, I've got help with me on my project but I'm lucky enough to be one of the few who have a Mac; now I can't recommend WebObjects to my Windows buddies (yep, Mac people do have those), I have to shrug and say things like "yeah, WebObjects is great - but you'd all have to use macs ...". Believe me, I'd love them all to be using Macs, but that just isn't going to happen.

If the XCode only WebObjects is now the only WebObjects development environment then I am going to severely struggle to justify its adoption, especially with the uncertainty as to whether even the deployment of WebObjects-based application will be ok on other platforms.

So what now? Is this "just a glitch" and are Apple just moving slower with the Windows development support, or is this it for real. As an optimistic WebObjects new adopter I'd like to think there was still hope, but the realist in me is saying no. My hope, although waning, is that the helpful tools people out there in the open source community will be able to fill the WebObjects on Windows gap. For that, time will tell.

It's a shame, it really is, if there is no longer support for WebObjects development (or potentially deployment) on other platforms. Before I stop my moaning I'd just like to say one more thing: Apple, I've been a Mac developer for going on 10 years and, even though I was a newbie to WebObjects, just 3 days ago looked like a killer tool for my web-based development needs. I know I was late to the party but I'm now truly sad to say that it's looking like I'll have to go somewhere else.

Anyone else upset by the apparent path that WebObjects is now taking? Anyone know something I don't about Apple's strategy for WebObjects?


2005-06-07 17:01:41
two things
I suggest going where the others commune:

Also see:

2005-06-07 17:15:28
Giant Failure
I loved WebObjects but dropped it 2 years ago as a solution. Did this after attending WWDC and being overcome with the feeling that WebObjects is a dieing too. Apple is anything but commited to what is probably the most revolutionary tool every created in the web application space.

While WebObject was and may still be years ahead of it's time, for some strange reason Apple didn't give it the boost it needed. They finally made it to 5.3 now? At this point we should have 6 and it should be a fully J2EE compliant server instead of a J2SE toy.

By now WebObjects should have better integration with design tools like GoLive and Dreamweaver. By now it should have blown the doors off any pushed BEA and WebSphere out of the market. Apple failed miserably with the one product that could have really opened the doors to Enterprise computing.

2005-06-07 20:58:42
oh no, not again
just as with apple, news of webobjects demise are usually premature.

the webobjects specs page you link to says under "Flexible Deployment": "Deploys to virtually any J2EE server or the WebObjects J2SE application server".

2005-06-08 00:26:54
oh no, not again
I probably didn't explain things clearly, my main point is that I have Windows developers working with me and I can't convince them to switch to OS X for the creation of our enterprise software. With 5.2.x, I had a chance to get them into WebObjects but that seems to have disappeared now.
2005-06-08 00:29:32
Giant Failure
I hear you but to be honest I really like the WebObjects development approach within XCode. Apple really do have a great product in WebObjects and with the more agressive pricing it was starting to move onto the radar for more and more people.

I'm just struggling with the reasoning behind "development only on OS X". Don't get me wrong, this is fine for me - but I'm not alone in my team and the Windows developers number 8:1...

I'd love to change the world by getting these people onto Macs, but it's not going to happen just yet.

2005-06-08 00:33:01
two things
Good links - these are exactly the mailing lists I've been hanging out on for the past week (admittedly not very long - but I'm a newbie).

It looks like Apple has done a great thing in packaging WebObjects for 'free' with XCode 2.1. Hats off to the product management team over in Cupertino for getting that spot on. But I've still got my Windows developer team member ratio from above ... Heck, those developers wouldn't mind paying a premium for a Windows WebObjects development suite - the problem is that that is not on the table.

2005-06-08 10:02:33
The Future
My gut instinct says that, yes, WebObjects as it exists if about to be retired. But look carefully at what else has happened.

1) Apple has introduced CoreData with Tiger- sort of an Enterprise Objects Framework Lite (EOF being how WebObjects organizes its data internally and structures communication with the outside data sources. It's the very heart and soul of what makes WebObjects happen). They have stated that eventually, CoreData will speak to remote data sources, and have all but said that this is the first incarnation of a brand spanking new EOF available to ALL applications written in Objective C.

2) WebObjects once went from being an environment that used either ObjectiveC or Java (or mixing both) to an entirely Java solution. There's no reason it can't go back, once CoreData is up to snuff.

3) There's no indication that the Darwin project will go away, so it's not outlandish to think WO deployments in either language wouldn't run on any Intel hardware.

4) Phil Schiller has stated that, although there are no plans to support it, they currently don't plan on stopping anyone from running Windows on Apple Hardware.

My guess is that the inclusion of WO with XCode 2.1 is a free taste of the drug, and that when the Intel boxes start rolling, a new Cocoa-driven WebObjects will show up, one that can use Objective C or Java once again, and will generate runtimes for any Intel hardware. Windows developers can just switch to Windows for anything else they need to do, or, if speculation is to be believed, run windows in WINE or some other emulation method. And all Cocoa applications from XCode will get some of the data handling goodness that is currently only available through WebObjects.

The pieces are in place for a really fascinating resurgence in WebObjects. I simply can not believe this is the end. The opportunities are too good.

2005-06-08 20:06:14
A good summary on WebObjects 5.3 licensing
This blog entry should help give a summary on 5.3

Personally, I would stay with 5.2.4 for the time being (WO 5.3 deployment doesn't seem to be ready..).

I'm sure the good folks from WOProject/WOLips will make WO 5.3 make with Eclipse - at least on OS X - and for crossplatform deployments, there is the .war-file option.

In the past, people deployed to Linux (and as .war-files to various platforms) and this worked fine although Linux was never officially supported...

2005-06-10 05:17:37
will xc2.1 work with 5.2.4
One thing I did not find out yet is:

Will I still be able to develop for WO5.2.4 with XCode2.1 ?
Since we will not be upgrading our server hardware, I have to stay at 5.2.4 and it would be a killer argument against upgrading to Tiger ...

2005-11-27 08:26:59
but... where else can you go?..
What is the best alternative to WebObjects?
2005-11-28 04:14:56
but... where else can you go?..
honestly ... in the end I opted for using Rails with Ajax where applicable. I've managed to integrate this with my web services (implemented in Java) and everything is ticking along nicely - and I'm platform independent to boot.

That worked for me, it's just a shame that WebObjects couldn't have done this for me in a manner that didn't leave me nervous about the direction it was going in the future.