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Sun's seventh annual JavaOne conference was held March 25-28 at the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco. This was the sixth Java conference I attended and it was interesting to compare it with the previous shows.

It's All About Networking
JavaOne, as always, is a great conference for networking. And I don't mean the networking that requires wires for connectivity. I'm referring to people hooking up with others who are using the Java platform to solve business problems. This JavaOne was no different. I chatted with several attendees about what they expected from the conference, and what they got out of it.

The majority felt the conference was a great way to generate leads and to get an idea of who else was leveraging Java and how; shared experiences, war stories, and potential alliances were some of the outcomes. Many of the attendees who had been at previous JavaOnes felt the sessions were not as exciting as in the past. However, the majority felt that the exhibition hall and the vendor demos were very interesting. Many felt that by attending the conference, they had generated leads they normally wouldn't have. On the other hand, the information in the sessions could have easily been picked up on the Internet. Most attendees felt that their trip to JavaOne gave them a better understanding of what's available in the market to build real-world applications.

Based on estimates at Sun's site, there were:

  • Over 50 countries represented
  • Over 350 members of the press
  • 35 cosponsors
  • 200 exhibitors
  • 10 media cosponsors
  • 300 in-depth technical sessions
  • 200 birds-of-a-feather sessions
My first impression was that attendance was down, and the atmosphere was more sober than in previous years. The obvious reason for this was that companies have cut back on spending and it's hard to justify using already-stretched resources. Another thing of note was that international representation was not as high as in previous years. Again, with concerns over safety and travel expenses, this wasn't unexpected.

In addition, the conference took place during the week of Passover, ruling out attendance from the Jewish community. This year's attendance seemed dominated by the Bay area folks and seemed to consist of seasoned developers who were involved in the development of real-world applications. I didn't come across many newbies in the crowd.

The Message
The message was clear. Sun's new logo "We make the Net work" seems a lot more palatable than "The network is the computer." The Java platform is coming of age and it's all about enabling the development of distributed applications. The maturity of the products displayed in the exhibition hall was quite apparent. The main additions to the platform consisted mostly of the enabling APIs for developing Web services. Web services, wireless connectivity, and enterprise applications based on J2EE were the cornerstones of the conference.

Besides Sun's keynote presentations on the vision of Java technology and Web services, additional themes centered around the role of Java in wireless and small devices, enterprise integration, and telecommunications. Unlike last year, when the keynotes focused on Web services - then the brand-new fad - I felt they were more balanced this year. Monday's presentation indicated that Sun was supporting Web services initiatives, and the Java platform has ample specifications and tools coming down the pipe to support building distributed applications based on Web services.

Technology Showcase
The Sharp Zaurus PDA, bundled with the Linksys 802.11b wireless network card, was the official device promoted this year. It was available to attendees at a special show price of $299, way below market price. The Technology Showcase featured Per- sonalJava technology, SOAP, Web services, JXTA, JXTA for J2ME, and an 802.11b wireless network. Developers used this device to work through the competitions hosted at the conference - "What Time Is It?" and the "Hackathon."

Session Themes
As mentioned earlier, Web services was one of the themes of the conference, but the content of the sessions was much more balanced. I attended some of the sessions under the "Java Technologies, Products, Solutions, and You" track and was quite happy to find that others in the industry have faced similar victories and defeats with Java technologies. Overall, the real-world examples of applications were reassuring, as they indicated the commitment Java has from leading companies around the world.

There were few sessions on new APIs for the simple reason that the Java platform hasn't added major modules to the framework. This is a good thing, as it indicates a maturing of the platform. Sessions that introduced new modules centered around Java 1.4, EJB2.1, the Java XML Service Pack, and the Sun ONE Web Services initiative. There were also several interesting sessions on Java design patterns, architecture, and language usage.

The pavilion was, for me, the most interesting part of the show. I met with most of the vendors on the exhibit floor and was very impressed by the products coming out in the Java market. They are less experimental and more geared toward supporting serious developers working on serious applications. The Java tools market has matured a lot in the past couple of years. This was evident by the fact that most of the IDE vendors were exhibiting tools that addressed integrated application development (instead of standalone), enterprise application testing, debugging, and logging. The design tools offer environments that allow developers and business process modelers to work at more abstract levels. The application server vendors who showed up at the conference are the ones who have emerged with solid products in the Java market.

The vendor booths were more spread out in the exhibit hall, primarily because there were fewer vendors than in previous years. However, there was traffic throughout the day, which indicated that most of the attendees were seriously interested in what the vendors had to offer. It also seems like marketing budgets have been replenished, as there were more toys, T-shirts, etc., handed out.

At SYS-CON's popular radio booth, leading vendors and industry luminaries were interviewed throughout the day. I interviewed several of the vendor representatives and, overall, the mood was enthusiastic and upbeat.

All in all, this year's JavaOne was a testimony to how far Java has come toward becoming a mature and robust platform that's widely adopted by the computing industry.

Author Bio
Ajit Sagar is the J2EE editor of JDJ and the founding editor and editor-in-chief of XML-Journal. A lead architect with Metavonni, LC, based in Dallas, he's well versed in Java, Web, and XML technologies. [email protected]

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