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Retooling The Programmers

Aspect-oriented programming makes it easier to reflect complex processes.
"It's the kind of enterprise where the initial market is too small for Microsoft to focus on," Simonyi says. "The little twig that will grow into a tree someday would get lost if it weren't nurtured by an organization such as ours." Intentional could have a demonstration of its tools ready by next spring.

The market for aspect-oriented tools isn't large--PARC says there are only about 500 users on its AspectJ mailing list, and Kiczales figures a "couple of thousand" developers use them daily. But German electronics company Siemens, the U.S. Air Force, electronic bill-payment software maker CheckFree, and systems-monitoring software vendor Sirius Software are among the roughly dozen organizations that use AspectJ for commercial projects. Developers from General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Oracle, and Sony have posted messages to PARC's AspectJ Web site. At a popular object-oriented programming confer-ence in Seattle this month, "aspect-oriented programming was everywhere," PARC researcher Jim Hugunin says.

Aspect-oriented tools may catch on is as part of mass-market commercial development environments. IBM's HyperJ can be loaded from within its Eclipse development environment for Java. AspectJ integrates with Eclipse, Sun Microsystems' SunOne Studio suite, and Borland Software's JBuilder.

Releasing aspect-oriented tools as part of popular development platforms for Java and Microsoft's .Net languages could mean wider adoption by corporate developers. If that happens, it might also help cut the distance between the people who use software and the guys in the dimly lighted cubes who write it.