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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 market.

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 coding examples.

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 breath.)

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.”

Author Bio
Eric N. Shapiro is CEO and cofounder of Zero G Software, Inc.

[email protected]

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