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JDJ Exclusive: First "Post-Google" Q&A With Sun About the Java Desktop
"OpenOffice Is a Huge Asset for Sun," Says Sun's Director of Java Desktop Engineering, Thorsten Laux

"As a desktop Java enthusiast," says Sun's director of Java Desktop Engineering, Thorsten Laux (pictured), "what's particularly compelling about the new partnership is the fact that Google has shown Sun that the JRE distribution channel represents an extraordinary value." The importance of that, Laux explains in this exclusive Q&A with Java Developer's Journal, is that it helps Sun to better understand the rationale for "continued and increasing investment in Java on the desktop" – creating a richer and broader platform which will ultimately drive more JRE downloads.

 
Q. Thorsten, thank you for talking with JDJ so soon after the historic Sun-Google announcement. We would like, if we may, to concentrate on the desktop side of things, but perhaps first you should just “position” this for us in terms of the overall announcement. How would you summarize what was announced yesterday, in terms of what was remarkable and new and ground-breaking?

Thorsten Laux: What's remarkable about this announcement is that two companies with a very consistent world view (that of network services, “the network is the computer”) but very complementary assets have partnered up in a strategic relationship:
 
Google has search technology and Sun has the distribution power to help bring it to every desktop on the planet. Sun has the distribution channel java.com and Google has the ability to advertise it, lets say when users are searching for “Java”. Google wants to deliver web services and rich clients, Sun has the Java platform for building and deploying them on desktop and servers. We have great hardware too, and Google announced that they're going to be buying more of it!
 
As a desktop Java enthusiast, what's particularly compelling about the new partnership is the fact that Google has shown Sun that the JRE distribution channel represents an extraordinary value. This realization certainly helps Sun to better understand the rationale for continued and increasing investment in Java on the desktop - creating a richer and broader platform which will ultimately drive more JRE downloads.
 
Q. How many people currently download the JRE from Sun.com currently; just how many extra Google Toolbars might there be in the world because of this? On what kind of scale is Sun expecting the JRE download tally to increase through the greater publicity that the partnership is bringing to its existence?
 
TL: The java.com download volume varies from month to month - depending on whether auto-update is currently active, whether new releases are available, etc. Recently we've cracked the 20M / month mark which is pretty unique as far as downloads go. Remember these are mainly consumers that want to run desktop Java applications like LimeWire or applets like Pogo Games or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Collection virtual reality viewer! Now we plan to offer the Google toolbar only to consumers, so only a subset of these downloads will contain the offer.
 
I do expect the number of JRE downloads to increase as a result of this partnership - both through increased publicity and through other initiatives we aren't ready to talk about yet. But it's hard to gauge by how much at this point.
 
Q. For those who are unclear, could you briefly outline the difference between StarOffice and OpenOffice, and say which will benefit most from the new partnership.
 
TL: OpenOffice.org is an open source project at www.openoffice.org to which Sun is the main contributor. StarOffice is Sun's commercial product based on the OpenOffice.org source code. Our press release mentioned OpenOffice. In the end OpenOffice adoption creates opportunity for StarOffice so I believe benefits to OpenOffice will translate to StarOffice.
 
Q. So what should Java developers, quite specifically, be most pleased about, now that the announcement has been made and the dust is settling?

TL: What's remarkable for all Java developers is that Google is endorsing and contributing to the future of Java via the JCP. Google, as a huge technology company, is certainly a good ally to define and drive the future of Java SE with. A lot of Google's software is actually written in Java already today.
 
What's exciting for desktop developers is that Sun's enhanced understanding of consumer distribution opportunities like this will help us look at desktop Java as a business in addition to the strategic investment it's always been. In the long run I expect this will mean that we'll be able to go much further in this space than we previously have.
 
We always knew that the desktop  is very important to Java developers. In fact the latest Evans Data American Developer survey shows that Java developers spend more time developing desktop Java content than either server or mobile Java applications. And we knew that the java.com download volume was just growing at incredible rates. It's very exciting for me to see our success on the desktop turning into very tangible value for Sun and Google.
 
Q. Who at Google acted as point man for the StarOffice/OpenOffice dimension within the new joint partnership? And what about the Sun end, how personal was your own involvement in it all?

TL: This partnership involves StarOffice/OpenOffice in a couple of ways and different people were working on different aspects of it. Given that the JRE distribution opportunity was the initial spark I ended up spending a very substantial amount of my own time on this deal, but as we grew the partnership into other dimensions other folks got involved.

Q. Is this evidence of Sun having “regained its touch” with the developer community, do you think? Concentrating on the technology rather than the brand, which developers respect but cannot do their job with. (Only technology allows them to develop; not logos, version re-numbering, and all the rest.)
 
TL: I'm very enthusiastic about the level of dialogue we currently have with the developer community - particularly in the desktop space. If you look at the javadesktop.org community, the way we've engaged on projects like SwingLabs (swinglabs.dev.java.net) and the JDK community (jdk.dev.java.net), we have really strengthened that connection a lot. Today many developers download our weekly Mustang builds and chat with us about new features as we blog about them on java.net. Or they directly work with us on prototypes of new features within the SwingLabs project. It's this connection that ensures that what we build actually matters to developers - and with Mustang it really shows.
 
Q. Some commentators have said the Google-Sun partnership is a damp squib; others (JDJ among them) have suggested that this is a game-changing alliance, that the technology landscape will potentially never be the same again if the potential of the Sun-Google combo is taken to its limits. What are the limits? How far could this teamwork go, from a technological perspective?
 
TL: If you just take a step back to look at what the two companies are doing - from a technological perspective - and imagine the possibilities for teamwork, I agree that there is a huge potential. If you consider the progress we have made on the Google/Sun relationship over the past six months, we're on a pretty exciting trajectory. I'm not going to speculate where this will take us, but I can tell you that we're all very actively figuring out the next steps right now.
 
Q. Our ever-popular Java EE editor, Yakov Fain, has written:
If Google and Sun will offer a free downloadable replacement for Microsoft Office suite (see  OpenOffice.org ),  millions of people who do not use anything other than a Web browser, word processor , e-mail client and a spreadsheet will convert to their religion.  Which OS will they use?  Who cares,  Java will run anywhere.
Do you agree with him? ;-)
 
TL: OpenOffice is a huge asset for Sun and it continues to be a key component of alternative desktops like Linux and Solaris, as well as  alternative desktop application suites for Windows. In my view it's a little too early to say to what extent the new partnership with Google will accelerate the already very significant adoption of OpenOffice.
 

Thank you so much Thorsten for taking the time to answer our questions.
 
 
About Jeremy Geelan
Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

Good marketing (Google) and a "killer application" for the "network computer architecture, NCA" (maybe Google's DesktopSearch) joined with the good, stable Java technology - a good idea.

I had decided to go with NCA from its first days, but users and developers have been betrayed by Sun several times.

"Java" was Applet hype first, ok, no problem if usability follows.

But people started to fear Applets popping / crawling up and stealing the users' time by endless loading.

The browser war (MS Internet Explorer against the rest) affected the internet hype and the interest in intelligent architectures like client-side Java. Sun - in its best days - should have forced a standardization.

Soon Sun concentrated on HTML-generating server-side Java and the more and more profitable hardware beneeth and silently left the clients to Microsoft. That was the death of the NCA vision.

Java WebStart (Java clients without the need of browsers and Applets) braught back a chance for client-side Java.

But in meantime the (for server hardware vendors also profitable) XML hype had swamped out the rest of interest in semantic types directly efficiently binary transferable or storable. Web designers (HTML -> XML, but no real programming) performed the better marketing and swamped out client-side Java.

With this history in mind, what are the next dangers to desktop Java in general and Google DesktopSearch in particular?:

- DesktopSearch is announced to work during pauses only. My impression with the beta version was quite another one, so I had to deinstall it from the older Notebook (Win2K, 192MB, 450MHz). DesktopSearch must really _release resources_ like processor, memory and file system immediately as soon as the user wants to continue his real work.

- A lot of private households and enterprise employees must work with one and the same old notebook or PC for several years. Their working must not be compromized or even _slowed down_ by DesktopSearch or its indexing. Did anybody publish measurement data yet?

- Intelligent standardized mechanisms of memory allocation must force ending and idle applications (Adobe Reader, Mozilla, ...) to _free their memory_. As long as operating system do this job bad, Java applications could exemplary show how to notify each other (via a service ...) of memory lacks (desperately swapping), memory needs (before starting or continouing) and memory offers (when exiting or going idle). The old slogan "Java slows down everything awfully" must be eliminated by facts.

- For Windows platforms it is a technologic ignorance to use two concurrent and very time consuming indexing mechanisms in parallel. MS is not supposed to give up FindFast indexing, but the other way round: Couldn't DesktopSearch feed the FindFast-files on the fly so that only one indexer needs to run?
Thomas.

Good marketing (Google) and a "killer application" for the "network computer architecture, NCA" (maybe Google's DesktopSearch) joined with the good, stable Java technology - a good idea.

I had decided to go with NCA from its first days, but users and developers have been betrayed by Sun several times.

"Java" was Applet hype first, ok, no problem if usability follows.

But people started to fear Applets popping / crawling up and stealing the users' time by endless loading.

The browser war (MS Internet Explorer against the rest) affected the internet hype and the interest in intelligent architectures like client-side Java. Sun - in its best days - should have forced a standardization.

Soon Sun concentrated on HTML-generating server-side Java and the more and more profitable hardware beneeth and silently left the clients to Microsoft. That was the death of the NCA vision.

Java WebStart (Java clients without the need of browsers and Applets) braught back a chance for client-side Java.

But in meantime the (for server hardware vendors also profitable) XML hype had swamped out the rest of interest in semantic types directly efficiently binary transferable or storable. Web designers (HTML -> XML, but no real programming) performed the better marketing and swamped out client-side Java.

With this history in mind, what are the next dangers to desktop Java in general and Google DesktopSearch in particular?:

- DesktopSearch is announced to work during pauses only. My impression with the beta version was quite another one, so I had to deinstall it from the older Notebook (Win2K, 192MB, 450MHz). DesktopSearch must really _release resources_ like processor, memory and file system immediately as soon as the user wants to continue his real work.

- A lot of private households and enterprise employees must work with one and the same old notebook or PC for several years. Their working must not be compromized or even _slowed down_ by DesktopSearch or its indexing. Did anybody publish measurement data yet?

- Intelligent standardized mechanisms of memory allocation must force ending and idle applications (Adobe Reader, Mozilla, ...) to _free their memory_. As long as operating system do this job bad, Java applications could exemplary show how to notify each other (via a service ...) of memory lacks (desperately swapping), memory needs (before starting or continouing) and memory offers (when exiting or going idle). The old slogan "Java slows down everything awfully" must be eliminated by facts.

- For Windows platforms it is a technologic ignorance to use two concurrent and very time consuming indexing mechanisms in parallel. MS is not supposed to give up FindFast indexing, but the other way round: Couldn't DesktopSearch feed the FindFast-files on the fly so that only one indexer needs to run?
Thomas.

And why do I get a blank page on submission, confusing or what!

Nice idea, but quite complex to implement correctly with enough office compatibility (IMHO Open Office 2.0 beta is not good enough for full migration yet). I would also have concerns over privacy, memory use and the speed of the application. I doubt Microsoft will get seriously scared until some killer betas appear, which are much better than the current Open Office 2.0 beta!

Nice idea, but quite complex to implement correctly with enough office compatibility (IMHO Open Office 2.0 beta is not good enough for full migration yet). I would also have concerns over privacy, memory use and the speed of the application. I doubt Microsoft will get seriously scared until some killer betas appear, which are much better than the current Open Office 2.0 beta!




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