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Wireless and Web Services Combine to Keep JavaOne Jiving...and Java Thriving
Wireless and Web Services Combine to Keep JavaOne Jiving...and Java Thriving

It's a cliché that, in a difficult economy, it is business leaders and business leaders alone that stand out. But it's a cliché that was shown to be at least partly valid by what was on display - and who was displaying it - at JavaOne 2002, which took place at the end of March in San Francisco's huge Moscone Center.

In times of economic uncertainty, it's always refreshing to see the truly entrepreneurial companies show themselves to be even more eager than usual to find new approaches and new ideas, so as to maneuver their businesses into a position to take advantage of any and all markets that are bucking the prevailing economic trend. This was really the "story" of JavaOne this year, as JDJ's exclusive researches reveal.

JavaOne 2002 Was "Amazing," Says Gosling

James Gosling, the "father" and co-creator of Java and never one to mince words, was unequivocally jazzed by the whole event: "It was amazing," he says, simply.

"Despite the economy and awkward scheduling," Gosling continues, "attendance was strong, and everyone I met was charged up. I didn't encounter any that felt like the vapor of past years: solid companies with actual revenue."

Was there anything that stuck out as being a new killer app of Javaland? "The technology has become so broad that its hard to 'pick a winner' - in a sense, they all are," Gosling replies. "To me, it's this broadness that is the real exciting feature these days: the whole end-to-end architecture is there."

But once a geek always a geek, and no one who knows Gosling should be the least surprised to hear him confess: "Then, of course, there were those cases at the entrance to the exhibit halls: filled with very cool, very lovely gadgets. Major objects of geek lust!"

Web Services and Wireless Are the New Hot Areas

Bill Roth, Sun's group marketing manager, is completely candid about the realities of the present economic turbulence. "My expectations were pretty low," he says, " given the economy. Most shows have been at about 50% capacity." But he was impressed, he explains, with the scope and results of JavaOne.

"I was impressed with traffic...which underscores two important items: 1) there are a sufficient number of new folks coming into the Java world to sustain and grow the community, and 2) there is sufficient new content, primarily in the area of Web services and wireless to hold developers' interest in the long term."

"While I remain a huge fan of J2EE," Roth concludes, "I am utterly amazed by the non-PC devices running Java."

Like Roth, Enigmatec CTO Duncan Johnston-Watt had lowish expectations of JavaOne 2002, and like Roth too he went home - he admits - pleasantly surprised.

"To be honest," explains Johnston-Watt, "I came expecting to be underwhelmed as the timing wasn't great for various reasons - 9/11, economic, religious, you name it. However, these concerns faded once I got there. I guess with everything that has happened in the past few months I'd forgotten that JavaOne is still unique in terms of its ability to reel us all in."

His high points were easy to identify: "For me the stars of this year's show were Project Liberty and JavaSpaces. The Liberty Alliance is an important initiative and it was great to see some early Java technology wins in this area. It was also really good to see both Jini and JavaSpaces well represented in an excellent series of sessions in the Emerging Technologies track. In particular, Wedge Greene and Nigel Warren were excellent value."

"Overall," Johnston-Watt concludes, "while 2002 wasn't exactly a vintage year, with less innovation than in previous years, nevertheless there was some very good content and I'm already looking forward to next year's JavaOne!"

Sun's Own EVP Is "Blown Away"

Patricia C. Sueltz, executive vice president of Sun's Software Systems Group, is as enthusiastic about JavaOne 2002 as James Gosling is. Her way of explaining it is a little different, though, and makes reference to Java processes as much as to products.

"First, I was blown away by all the different ways that people are using Java and what a huge success it is," she says. "Java is clearly the de facto standard for server side development. I continue to be amazed at how adoption keeps growing and more and more applications keep appearing that enable enterprise and legacy data to be accessed with Java. It's really a testament to what a community working together, like the Java Community Process, can accomplish."

What were the specific high points, for her, asked JDJ. "I think we strengthened Java's appeal," Sueltz replies, "and extended the breadth of Web services with the announcement that Sun is taking a leadership role in extending Web services standards to clients by providing support for XML processing and SOAP-based communication on J2ME clients."

This gives enterprises "a complete end-to-end Web services architecture," she adds.

Secondly, Sueltz continues, "the momentum of Java technology in the wireless space is really strong. Large wireless carriers around the world realize that interactive applications create a whole new revenue opportunity and that Java provides an independent, standards-based application platform for them. This combined with the exciting range of phones and mobile devices being offered or on the way will drive Java technology's acceptance to unprecedented levels."

Could she be more specific? You betcha! "There are currently more than 50 different devices available from 16 world-class wireless manufacturers: Nokia, Motorola, Siemens, Samsung, Sony/Ericsson, Panasonic, Sharp, NEC, Mitsubishi, Toshiba, Casio, LG, Hitachi, RIM, Sanyo, and Fujitsu."

Phew.

Then Sueltz moves on to the somewhat thorny open source issue. "The agreement we've reached with Apache and open source technology groups to enable Open Source implementations, to provide no cost access to TCKs for qualified non-profits and individuals and to create a scholarship program subsidizing support services for compatibility testing," she asserts, "will have a major positive impact on adoption and innovation going forward."

"Supporting open source implementations of Java specifications will foster even wider adoption of Java technologies and help fuel the growth of open source community," Sueltz adds.

Java for Enterprise Mobility Rules OK

Bruce Scott, founder and CEO of PointBase underlines Pat Sueltz's second point about the huge opportunity that "wireless Java" represents for pervasive enterprise computing in a mobile business world.

"For three years JavaOne has been a seminal event for PointBase," says Scott. "For JavaOne 2002 that did not change. Although the traffic was down we found that the traffic was better qualified. The attendees knew more about Java and many of them knew about PointBase already. It's clear that Java is in the mainstream now. People had real questions about real applications. Only a few stopped by our booth [merely] to get a free give-away."

"It was also clear that the undeclared theme of JavaOne 2002 was the use of Java for enterprise mobility applications," Scott continues. "Many of our partners at our booth and at their own booth were technologies that enable enterprise mobility. The talk of games for handheld devices seems to have disappeared and now people really want to know how they can use Java to extend enterprise applications to the mobile worker. Several major announcements underscored this including the BlackBerry 5810, the Sharp Zaurus and the Nokia 9210 Java enabled phone. These adopters of J2ME represent Java mobility moving into the mainstream and the enterprise."

Is Sun A Year Behind IBM and Microsoft?

Rebecca Dias, product manager of Orbix E2A XMLBus for IONA Technologies, was (like James Gosling) impressed by some of the hardware at the show. "On the ground," she says, "JavaOne was jammed-packed with press and analyst interviews, techie-to-techie talks, and lots of great buzz around Web services and JDO. One of the hottest booths was the Macintosh booth with the new Titanium PowerBooks."

"For the first time," continues Dias, "Unix was proven to have the potential of being user friendly. There is a huge potential that the Linux geeks that are tired of less than adequate GUIs will gravitate towards the Mac OS 10 especially since they can still run all of their favorite Unix applications and switch to Linux or Windows without problems."

Dias's take on the Sun Microsystems frontal assault on Web services wasn't perhaps as gung-ho as the likes of Gosling, Sueltz, and Roth maybe would like. "Sun seems to be working a year behind the big boys IBM and MS when it comes to Web services hype," she says - adding, prophetically: "This year was more about J2EE 1.3 and downplaying the importance of Web services. They 're saving Web services for the J2EE 1.4 release coming out at the end of 2002, for a 2003 JavaOne launch. It might be the right timing considering all of the flak Sun has received in the past for getting to hot to trot on technology before it was mature - remember Jini?"

"The most exciting space and the winner for Java appears to be the embedded space," concludes Dias. "Embedded Unix and J2ME was hot this year. Lots of real applications and use."

Paolini and Williamson Praise Return to Basics

George Paolini, chief marketing officer of Zaplet, Inc., is in no doubt: "All-in-all a great show," he affirms. "I saw a focus on back to basics, and that's a strong reflection of Java's role in the enterprise, which has been clearly established."

Alan Williamson, who as editor-in-chief of Java Developer's Journal has become famous for calling for just such a back to basics shift for the past year, agrees.

"This JavaOne was a great one as usual," enthuses Williamson. "Of all the JavaOnes I can remember," he continues, "this was one of the ones that makes this particular event so great." While the overall foot traffic may have been down significantly, he adds, there was "time to talk to people and find out what was happening in the real world with Java."

The major points that Williamson draws attention to are firstly the fact that people seemed to have given up on always-on wireless. "Where in previous years," he says, "companies were building software assuming that the network would be there that was always on, this hasn't transpired, so a lot of those same companies are now concentrating on synching software to make use of the network when and if it's online."

Secondly, says Williamson, he noticed that while in previous years, "software tool vendors followed the vogue and produced a whole raft of UML tools, intimidating all those that didn't use them, now the shift has gone onto performance and analysis tools."

"Another fad?" he wonders, rhetorically. "Time will tell."

Lastly JDJ's head honcho cites, inevitably, Web services. "Java vendors are now supporting it, as opposed to just talking about it."

"Whether the mainstream is going to use these tools remains yet to be seen," Williamson finishes, adding: "A number of 'personalities' did hint that Web services was still maybe up to 5 years away from being widely adopted."

"Respectable" Web Services Here We Come?

Williamson's last point struck a chord, not surprisingly, with the editor-in-chief of Web Services Journal, Sean Rhody, who declares that it was clear to him at JavaOne 2002 that "the first phase of Web Services, the definition phase, is drawing to a close."

"Without exception," he continues, "vendors had already provided the back-end connectivity within their products to allow them to expose a Web service interface." As Rhody succinctly puts it, so far as Web services is concerned, "The battle for acceptance is over. The battle for respectability has begun."

It is a battle that is next joined June 24-27 at Web Services Edge 2002 (East) International Web Services, Java, and XML Conference & Expo at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City (www.sys-con.com/WebServicesEdge2002East) - where the industry will be reassembling to take its next very public steps in the direction of interoperability and reliability (including security) in the rapidly changing world of enterprise computing.

Last Word to Scott McNealy

No wrap-up of JavaOne would be complete without some kind of 65,000-foot view from Sun's highest flier, chief executive Scott McNealy. Asked by JDJ what his strongest impressions of the week were, from a Java industry point of view, he cuts straight to the chase: "To me, it all comes back to open -- and open means interoperability. That's the promise of Java, and we all have to do our best to keep that promise, year after year."

"Every chance I get," McNealy continues, "I urge developers to test their applications for compatibility on at least two app servers to make sure they haven't picked up any proprietary extensions in the tools they use. Incompatibility is the wrong answer. It limits the value of your application and the size of your market."

Now who in Javaland could possibly quarrel with that?

About Java News Desk
JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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