Zero G has participated in every JavaOne since the first one back in
1996. So, the decision to attend the first JavaOne conference held outside
the U.S. was a no-brainer for us.
Of course, there would be some logistical hurdles to cross, but how
different could it be from attending a trade show here in the states?
Boy, we’d find out.
You haven’t traveled to a foreign country until you’ve dragged over
500 pounds of equipment with you for a trade show. Our duffle bags were crammed
full of laptops, marketing collateral, posters, and demos. And drag them
we did. From San Francisco to Narita Airport just outside of Tokyo, to the
Narita express train, through the Yokohama train station at rush hour (not
a pretty sight – six Americans dragging duffle bags upstream against tens
of thousands of Japanese commuters all intent on going downstream), through
the streets, and finally to our hotel.
Once we arrived at the show site, the Pacifico Yokohama conference center,
we spent about three hours setting up. Looking around we saw all the usual
players, including Sun, Apple, Borland, Oracle, and IBM, mostly represented
by their Japanese-based offices. Most of the booths, however, were taken
up by a variety of Japanese companies touting the latest for the mobile Java
J-Phone, NTT DoCoMo, and Fujitsu all had very large booths. Some companies
were demonstrating server-side Java and app server solutions along with a
good handful of developer solutions, but the real excitement was certainly
focused on the avalanche of Java for your mobile phone.
If there was a “theme” to the show, it was J2ME. Almost everywhere you
looked were vendor displays of 10–15 cell phones showing off a variety of
Java-based technologies. There were phones with digital cameras, phones that
played movies or played simulated battles or sporting contests with other
Java-based phones as the owners innocently walked by each other.
At the conference section of the show, many sessions focused on designing,
developing, and deploying J2ME applications. The most noteworthy sessions
included Creating Mobile Services, Developing Wireless Applications with
the Java 2 Platform, High Performance Java Technology for the Java Platform
Micro Edition, How to Develop Impressive Mobile Applications, and Implementing
the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition Technology-Enabled Handset. Each speaker
presented a well-rounded technical discussion with lots of demos and hands-on
The session offerings were as rich and varied as those at JavaOne San
Francisco, although there were a fraction as many. With over 100 keynotes,
sessions, and BOFs offered, it was quite an impressive showing…not bad for
a first time show (compared to over 500 at the 2001 JavaOne SF).
Sun wheeled out a full complement of bigwigs, everyone from James Gosling
(father of Java) to Richard Green (VP and general manager, Java and XML software),
Greg Papadopoulos (senior VP and CTO), and John Gage (chief researcher and
director, science office).
And, omnipresent in the sessions, show floor, and around the conference
hall was “Duke,” the huge, overstuffed Java mascot, taking pictures and causing
a general fuss as he lumbered from one end of the show floor to the other.
Of course, the proper way to greet Duke in Japan is with a bow, and we got
firsthand experience when Duke visited our booth.
To get into the spirit of things, I rented an i-mode phone from NTT
DoCoMo. Wow! There’s nothing like it anywhere in the States. Just imagine
a phone that’s half the size of anything you’ve ever seen, add a full-color,
high-resolution screen and built-in Internet connectivity using a packet-based
network – so it’s always connected – and it weighs almost nothing.
While the ubiquitous “tumbling Duke” was the first application I ran
(known as an i _ppli –based application), the most useful Java applications
I used gave me a customized schedule of the conference sessions, and also
helped us find the best local restaurants in town. But let’s get back to
the show itself…
One of the more interesting things at the show was the full-size gas
station pump that had an embedded Java server so you could remotely control
and manage the pump.
JavaOne Japan was a bit smaller than the San Francisco–based event (JavaOne
SF has tens of thousands of attendees, while its Asian counterpart had just
about 6,000, although this exceeded Sun’s predictions). There was also, surprisingly,
a complete lack of tchotchkes at JavaOne Japan. There were no blinky bouncy
balls, pool ponies, or squeeze toys. And we seemed to be the only American
company exhibiting that didn’t have a Japanese office. Luckily, our friends
at Grape City, one of our Japanese reseller partners, helped us out by providing
much-needed translation and etiquette guidance.
Walking the floor, I saw how much Java technology has developed from
its 1.0 beginnings. Here was a trade show floor filled with devices, from
workstations and servers to mobile phones, keycards, and even gas pumps,
all powered by Java technologies. Java has evolved and matured, and now powers
an incredibly large percentage of the corporate and Internet economy.
The remarkable success of Java everywhere, even in consumers’ pockets,
is obvious without looking anywhere special. Over 4 million Java-powered
mobile phones have been sold in Japan, creating an incredible opportunity
for a new wave of Java solutions for everyday use. With the technology and
infrastructure now largely in place, all that remains is a series of killer
apps to keep us glued to our phones even more than we are already.
From my vantage point, there are only two stumbling blocks to making
this next transition. First, the current Java-based devices are mostly low-powered
J2ME CLDC units. These Connected Limited Device Configuration phones have
very limited memory available and slow processors. Thankfully, this problem
will quickly be eliminated, as evidenced by the new wave of high-powered
J2ME devices that are about to hit the market. (For example, Nokia showed
off a Symbian-powered device with tons of RAM and processor power.) Even
the bandwidth issue has already been solved. NTT DoCoMo showed off new phones
and services under the FOMA moniker that have 384 Kbps connectivity. (That’s
faster than my DSL connection here. In the U.S., both Sprint and AT&T
have promised 3G phone connectivity by next year – we’re still holding our
Second, these great new devices are not available outside of Asia. Since
a considerable amount of software development occurs outside of Asia, we’re
stuck with a conundrum: with very few exceptions, it’s nearly impossible
to develop and sell software for the Japanese mobile-Java market unless you’re
located in Japan. For the next few years, at least, you’ll have to open a
Japanese office if you want to be part of this wave.
Overall, the show was well worth attending. If you find JavaOne in San
Francisco useful, you should plan on attending JavaOne Japan as well.
Oh yeah, and when you get your business cards translated, make sure
you have someone who really speaks Japanese review them. In our first batch
my title was translated to “Most Honorable Boiler Room Mechanic.”
Eric N. Shapiro is CEO and cofounder of Zero G Software, Inc.