Yes, I was in San Francisco last month - but unlike the other 25,000 pilgrims, I wasn't fortunate enough to pay full homage to the Mecca of Java: JavaOne 2000. Instead, I was trapped in somewhat less than invigorating business meetings. I was also in a hurry to get back to Dallas to my wife and my brand new (two-week old) baby boy. However, I did manage to sneak out for a few hours on two separate days to the Moscone Center in downtown San Francisco to sip from the Java technology cup....
Although my impressions of JavaOne this year are based mainly on this brief interlude, I've been following the conference closely via the Web and other means. And let me tell you one thing, folks - I was disappointed. Later I talked to several of my friends and fellow nerds who had attended the full conference. They concurred. This year the excitement and the energy were nowhere close to last year's JavaOne.
Later, on my Dallas-bound plane, my thoughts wandered back to JavaOne. And suddenly the reason why this year's show seemed more lukewarm hit me: there were very few surprises! Think about it. What was new at this conference? Granted, there were 150 technical sessions. All the hotels were booked as usual. Gimmicks abounded, congregations of nerds were found aplenty and there was much pomp and show. So what? As far as the Java platform itself is concerned, everything was old news. EJB architecture? Announced last year. The three lives of the Java Platform - J2ME/J2SE/J2EE? Announced last year. Jini, Java 2D, Collections, HotSpot - all these are last year's news. The small device market? Well, 3Com and Sun had much to say about it - last year. Microsoft's JVM? Last year's controversy.
Version 1.3 of the JDK was released a couple of months before JavaOne this year. But this release didn't introduce any new APIs. In contrast, last year's announcement of Java 2 was replete with new APIs, a redefined vision of Sun's Java Platform and major enhancements in the Java language. The 1.3 release is mainly bug fixes, performance improvements and enhancements to some of the existing APIs. No groundbreaking announcements this year.
At JavaOne 2000 Sun made numerous announcements including major initiatives with the Java Community Process, Java Web Start software and Forté for Java, Community Edition. Sun also updated the industry on initiatives including XML, JavaServer Pages technology, the Enterprise JavaBeans architecture and so on. However, all these are developments related to existing initiatives. Most of these are not technology advancements but, rather, tactical and strategic decisions for the Java community.
Application Server Focus
One thing was clear. J2EE has definitely come of age. The app server offerings now extend beyond the EJB object model. Vendors are bundling tools for application integration, XML support, workflow management and a plethora of other framework components that go into creating enterprise-level distributed applications. The app server now occupies such a prominent space in business application development that JDJ is dedicating this issue to that market. A magazine focused exclusively on this subject is also under consideration; what do you, our readers, think of this initiative?
No More Nerd Nirvana?
Every year, JavaOne serves as the Nerd Nirvana for Java enthusiasts. Those of us fortunate enough to go to JavaOne spend a week immersed in Java and related technologies, away from the other mundane activities that are Simply Not Java. The nerd in us looks for cool technologies and the latest/greatest gadgets, and to interact with other similar birds that migrate to San Fran this time of the year. If this year's JavaOne is any indication, Java may be moving away from that. After all, how long can a technology continue to invent new areas for developers to dabble in?
Nevertheless, It's a Good Sign
Don't get me wrong. This lack of activity, while it may be a letdown for the developer community, is actually good. It signals the maturity of the Java Platform. For the past four years the Java Platform APIs and products have evolved rapidly and radically. Several 90-degree turns have taken place in Java technology. This year it seems the dust has settled. The products in the market are far more mature. The IDEs are already defined. The application server vendors have a much clearer definition of their offerings. J2EE is actually being deployed in the enterprise and real-world stories are completing the feedback loop for business applications. Java has made clear its role in the middle-tier and server-side architectures. EJB is gaining wider acceptance in the computing world. And software architects, designers and developers are concentrating on harder problems like persistence and distributed transactions using Java technologies.
Breaking Up May Be a Good Thing
I believe JavaOne is now too big a conference in terms of the number of participants and the ground it tries to cover both technologically and from a business perspective. Maybe it should be broken up into more focused sections. As a start, it could be divided into two conferences - one for developers, the other for business solutions. Perhaps these should be held in different geographical locations, such as JavaOne East Coast and JavaOne West Coast. It could even develop into a road show, like C++ World hosted by SIGS, and be held at different locations throughout the world.
One last thing. As it also did last year, SYS-CON Radio occupied a very prominent spot at JavaOne. The booth was filled with industry leaders who shared with attendees news of the various developments in Java technology. Hats off to the JDJ crew who made this a big success. The many interviews are available at the JDJ Web site,
Ajit Sagar is editor-in-chief of XML-Journal and E-Commerce editor of JDJ. His regular E-Java column will return next month.
Ajit can be contacted at: [email protected]