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by Ajit Sagar

This year's JavaOne revolved around three major themes ≠ Web Services, wireless and small devices (J2ME), and J2EE. There was an air of euphoria around Web Services. This was similar to the atmosphere surrounding XML a couple of years ago. There were more examples of actual prototypes in the wireless space. It was interesting to get the perspective on this technology from vendors ranging from application server vendors to development environment providers to providers of software for mobile devices.

Opinions ranged from Web Services as a panacea for all ailments to skepticism about the business models that they could be applied to in the near term. Much of the information presented in the sessions about Web Services was introductory, which is not surprising, as this is a fairly new paradigm. Under the umbrella of Web Services, UDDI, XML, SOAP, and .NET technologies were major themes for discussion and presentation. Of course, there was a Web Services spin around all three editions of the Java Platform ≠ J2SE, J2ME, and J2EE.

Many of the J2ME and wireless application vendors represented the European community. Telecom has always found more early adopters and standardization in Europe than in the US. The mobile devices market shows signs of taking off. Several J2ME-powered devices were displayed in the underground corridors between Moscone North and Moscone South. These included mobile phones, set-top boxes, and PDAs. Of course, the concepts have been displayed as prototypes in the previous conferences. Some of these devices have now become popular in consumer services.

The maturity of J2EE was apparent. And with it, the problems that organizations have faced in adopting this platform. As companies become more careful about spending, there are valid concerns about adopting a platform that requires expensive peripherals. J2EE by itself is a spec. The actual products are offered by third-party vendors and the complete suite of application servers, commerce servers, personalization products, workflow engines, and so on, adds up to quite a formidable sum. This can put a damper on J2EE enthusiasts. However, there were many cases of real world applications, which discussed the trade-offs and benefits of using different aspects of J2EE. Server-side Java computing has definitely come of age. There was a wealth of information on design patterns, tips and tricks, J2EE battle scars, architecture, design, and more.


Surprisingly, there was less Microsoft bashing than at previous conferences. No Bill-Gates-Apple-in-the-face type gimmicks. To me this indicates a couple of things. One is that the Java Platform technologies have matured to a stage where proponents of Java donít need a target to lash out at. Second, the emerging markets powered by XML, Web Services, and wireless technologies level the playing field to the extent that one camp has no choice but to acknowledge the otherís presence. In most of the interviews that we conducted at the SYS-CON Radio booth, the vendors indicated a neutral stance (e.g., they confirmed the fact that the Microsoft as well as Sun and other Java supporters have substantial presence in Web Services). Most vendors are planning to support both. Thus we will probably see true layers of abstraction created over existing technology camps.


A variety of topics was available through the seven tracks that comprised the sessions of the conference. Monday and Tuesday's sessions contained basic introductions to new technologies. Most of this stuff can be picked up from white papers on the Internet. Wednesday through Friday was where the presenters actually got into the meat of things. Thursday and Friday were the best days for real-world examples of enterprise applications, J2EE design and implementation, and J2EE vis a vis Web Services.

One very useful facet of the conference was that Sun actually held the Java certification exams on site, as well as several developer competitions. There was also a wealth of information available on the Java certification process.


The Pavilion had a wide variety of exhibitors with demos and showcased products. My conversations with the vendors led me to believe that most of them thought the show was a little slower than last year. Congruent with the themes for the conference, J2EE application servers and IDEs, messaging products, mobile communications software, and Web Service frameworks were the norm. Sun had arranged their booth in a rectangle around all the other vendors. This was a better arrangement than what Iíve seen in past years.


The slump in the economy had obviously affected the show. Though the impact on technology was less apparent, the effect on the conference was obvious. In 2000 attendance reached 25,000. In fact, Sunís press release from last year claims that this limitation was only because of the Moscone Centerís fire marshal limits. No such claims were made this year. Tuesdayís JavaOne Today, the conferenceís daily newsletter, had the attendance tagged at 17,000 ≠ about 32% less than last year.


All said and done, it was a fairly good conference. Not the best JavaOne as compared to last year, but one certainly well worth attending.. (A.S.)

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