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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
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Java in the News: Sun's JavaOne Day One - First-Hand Report
Java in the News: Sun's JavaOne Day One - First-Hand Report

The 2004 JavaOne conference opened today with the standard formula of industry keynotes. Documentary film maker and local TV personality Jonathan Karsh opened the show as the emcee. The 8th annual Java developer show began in front of a backdrop of scrolling Java (which had code for catching exceptions), Sun president & COO Jonathan I. Schwartz., started out by delivering the standard Sun executive speech touting the explosion of Java on handsets, servers, and developers writing Java.

From Sun's perspective, the exciting news of the day seemed to be a new desktop window manager, a VB-like development tool, Java on a BMW and new version number scheme for the Java platform.

Like former Sun executives Alan Baratz, George Paolini, and Richard Green in years past, Sun's president and COO recited the usual Sun bromides of "Everything and Everyone Connected to the Network," and Joy's Law, also rendered as "Innovation Happens Elsewhere."

What set Schwartz apart was that, unlike Sun executives in the past, he did his own demos, for the most part. The first demo was a wireless pulse monitor that transmitted to a Java application running on his cell phone. While not entirely useful, this demo could hint at some interesting cardiac telematics applications.

Curiously, many of the rest of the demos displayed functionality that has existed on other platforms for years. The second demo was a lighthearted one showing a version of the Instant Messaging client on the Sun Java Desktop. Interestingly, this is something that has been available on Windows for quite a while.

The next demo was a hardware demo, literally. A BMW was driven onto the stage and the next-generation information console was demoed. The demo showed navigation, entertainment, climate control, and a host of other features. All of which was written in Java. Dr. Roland Busch, CEO of Siemens VDO Automotive (Infotainment Solutions) mentioned that their "Infotainment" solutions had recently won a performance award from Automotive Magazine, scoring a 20 out of 20. This was mentioned to dispel the notion that Java is not performant, a criticism that has dogged Java since its launch.

The overall view of the demos was somewhat curious given that most of Sun's money comes from servers. In essence, the keynotes were all about areas in which Sun garners very little revenue.

Notably absent was any discussion of Linux, underscoring Sun's move away from its previous Linux announcement and towards its homegrown Solaris x86. Microsoft's Longhorn Beta was shown, displaying several Java GUI demos.

Next up was the new EVP of Sun software, and former chief marketing officer, John Loiacono. Much of his presentation was spent hyping the tortuously named Sun Java Studio Creator, Sun's attempt to bring Java coding to the masses. The targeting of Visual Basic was mentioned several times. Sun is offering Creator for free, and subscriptions for a nominal fee.

Loiacono then announced "Project Kitty Hawk," which seems to be some kind of product announcement around Service-Oriented Architectures. One hint that no product was forthcoming in the short term was that the announcement included a reference to an "assessment service," which is a professional services offering usually made in lieu of product availability.

Sun executives continue to equate downloads actual product usage. Product download statistics were repeatedly offered as proof of wide adoption. For example, Creator has had 40,000 downloads in 6 months, and the latest version of Java has been downloaded 100 million times. It's not clear how many of these downloads are actually installed and used.

When Schwartz returned to the stage, he coyly hinted at some kind of developer offering, where Sun's software, tools, code samples, tutorials and the new servers based on the AMD Operton chipset would be offered on eBay.

For the next demo, Schwartz brought up the creator of "Project Looking Glass," Sun's 3D window manager for the GNOME desktop. While the demo was striking in appearance, its usefulness was not readily apparent. Schwartz then announced that Java 3D would be open-sourced, and Looking Glass would come later, once Sun's lawyers had reviewed it.

This was followed by a video where New Energy Associates touted the power of Creator. The presenters from New Energy liked themselves to producing Sim City for energy engineers. They intimated that Creator made them as productive as Visual Basic.

The next portion of the show was technical, and the press was shoo-ed from the room. Those who remained were given presentations on J2SE, J2ME and J2EE. Dr. Graham Hamilton talked about the new versioning system for the Java platform. What was thought to be JDK 1.5 will now be JDK version 5. Hamilton also mentioned that the version 5.1 of the Java platform (code named "dragon fly") would be available in early 2005, version 6 would be available in early 2006, and version 7 would be available in late 2007.

After Tim Lindholm's brief presentation on J2ME, Sun Distinguished Engineer Bill Shannon gave a high-speed presentation on the future of J2EE. He hailed the improvements made to J2EE 1.4 as a "major improvement" as a result of all the new features. The goal of the next versions of J2EE was to keep the power of J2EE and make it easier to use. This is an obvious reference to the difficulty associated with writing J2EE applications.

He then proceeded to talk about some of the ideas Sun has to make J2EE easier, but there was some skepticism in the analyst community about Sun's ability to make further headway on the platform because of opposition from large application server vendors.

"I cannot believe that there will be a J2EE after 5.0, because IBM and BEA will not sign up for it," said Anne Thomas Manes, VP and Research Director at Burton Group, a reference to the market leaders in the application server market.

As far as Day One keynotes go, this first General Session was about average. There were some interesting demos, a number of somewhat confusing product announcements, and some decent roadmaps on technology. This puts it on par with many of the other JavaOne keynotes from the past.

About Bill Roth
Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.

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