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JavaOne: A Look Back, and Predictions For This Year

Back in the day, the real decision on what to announce during JavaOne didn't really happen until the week before the show

JavaOne: A Look Back, and Predictions For This Year

It's that time of year again for those of us in the enterprise Java Community. JavaOne descends upon us like the monsoon. It's a force of nature and you'd better be prepared for it. BEA is a Platinum sponsor again this year, another sign of our continuing fealty and devotion to the Java Platform and its community. I have been at every JavaOne since 1995, and the show has changed quite a bit. It is also interesting to recall who Sun's cast of characters was at the individual shows. Except for Gosling and McNealy(and despite the latest news, he's not really gone), there has been quite a turnover in the faces that have shown up to lead the show. The show has also waned in its energy over the past years, down from its Bubble-induced high of 26,000 attendees. Last year's attendance felt a bit like around 10,000, though is merely a guess.

When you look back at the announcements from Sun over the past 10 years, what you see is equal parts of self-congratulatory puffery, successes and a number of misfires. In going over my notes from the past 10 years, here is how I would characterize what happened and what was announced at the shows. One disclaimer, when you get to my advanced age, sometimes the memory fades or modulates. Please feel free to post corrections.

1996: The Real JavaOne, and the Java Station

This was a show unlike any other. The work around Java was frenzied, kicked off by breathless articles by the likes of George Gilder and the staff of Wired magazine. This was really the coming out party for Java, and there were a number of interesting things going on. Corel has a beta of a word processing suite built entirely in Java. Microsoft has a good development environment in VisualJ++. The frenzy around the show was so intense, that the show sold out of passes 3 times. Each time they sold out, they doubled the price for the next batch, and when those sold out, they did it again. The final last-minute ticket price was $5000. (The show is still a little pricey at nearly $2000/ticket).

1997: JavaBeans, Applets, and The Shape of Things to Come

JavaBeans technology was very hot at this show, and Shel Finkelstein dropped a hint that it might be a good idea to have beans running on the server. His presentation contained what eventually became EJB, which was officially announced in December of 1997.

1998: Java Platform for the Enterprise

This was the JavaOne where Sun first introduced the notion that Java might run on a server, and that in fact, it might even be a better place for Java than in the browser. The name at the time was Java Platform for the Enterprise, or JPE. I could be wrong, but I also think that this was the show where Alan Baratz and Dave Spenoff came up with the idea of Java Jumpstart, everything you needed in one package. They came up with it about 5 days before the show, and it eventually withered into a free developer offering that was killed when it was replaced by the SunOne developer kit, which I am sure has since been killed. This was also the year of the Java Ring, which had a small Java chip in it from the friendly folks at Dallas Semiconductor. There was also a very cool Java automation demo put together by the wizards in Sun's Market Development Engineering group.

1999: Palm, and Java 2 Micro Edition, Pre-announcement of J2EE, and Java 2 (or When in doubt, rename it)

Back in the day, Alan Baratz had us reaching for "blockbusters" and "bombshells". This year's bombshell was selling Java provisioned Palm Vs on the floor of JavaOne at cost. I know my pal George Paolini had a major hand in this, and this is one of the only times I have seen a stunt so well timed with the techno-zeitgeist. It also turns out that Java 2 Micro Edition was launched at this show as well. In retrospect, you have to admit that with somewhere near 1,000,000 devices running J2ME, this was the most successful of the Java platforms. The real highlight for me was Douglas Adams keynote, and his "packet of biscuits" story.

2000: Magic Johnson, AMEX Blue

The 2000 edition of JavaOne was a cavalcade of stars. Looking back at this show, it was a cavalcade of stars, but not a lot of substance. Stevie Wonder, AKA Steve Jobs, was there, and announced Java for the Mac. Apple did a great job at this, and their VM is one of the best (behind JRockit, of course). Among other things, the then head of Sun software, Pat Sueltz, announced the importance of XML. "The Java platform and XML go hand in glove," says Sueltz. "Because you can't have a sentence without the nouns of XML and the verbs of the Java platform." This occurred after 2 years of bad-mouthing XML as being fat and slow. American Express was on stage as well showing off its new JavaCard based Blue, which never seemed to have caught on.

2001: The Last of The Good Times

The last pre-9/11, pre-bubble bursting JavaOne, was unique along a number of fronts. First, Pat Sueltz took the stage to seemingly inappropriate theme music by the band "The Barenaked Ladies". She then touted the retooled-again Java Community Process. But the real craziness was about to start with the industry keynotes from our then CEO/Founder, Bill Coleman. Bill got up and gave a decent talk about high-performance server side Java, and his speech was in a way emblematic of how far Java had come. Someone, like Coleman and BEA, was making actual money on Java. Something Sun could not seem to be able to do with any appreciable consistency. Following Coleman was the ever-bombastic Larry Ellison. His talk was a discursive jumble of self-congratulatory statements and promises of largely unfounded superior scalability. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what you'd expect from Larry after all.

2002: JavaOne or SunOne?

The first post-9/11, post-bubble burst JavaOne had all the excitement of a trip to the DMV, except for the scintillating keynote provided by our fearless leader, Alfred Chuang. Attendance was way down, many of the exciting new companies from previous years were now extinct, people were out of work, and there was pallor over the conference.

2003: The Dirge Continues

What's really interesting is that JavaOne started to get really dull. In fact, if you review the Sun Press Release site, you do not find much. You find some events, like the Deployathon, but nothing in the way of real announcements, other than a reference to JSK 1.4.2 and Java 5.

2004: Signs of Life?

2004 was much the same as 2003, little news, except for some personality-cult building around Gosling, and a discussion around wearable technology. Don't get me wrong, I like James. In fact, my office was down the hall from his back in the JavaSoft days. But news is news.

2005: Mobile Java (again), and "When in doubt, rename it again."

I attended this show as a member of the 4th estate, and again there was precious little news other than McNealy doing some chest-thumping. There were also some announcements about Mobile Java (again), and a discussion of the renaming of the Java platform, which happens whenever there is a re-org at Sun and a new marketing VP gets a hold of the Java team.

Predictions: What Will Sun Announce in 2006

Back in the day, the real decision on what to announce during JavaOne didn't really happen until the week before the show. (They could use it as a forum to announce their new CEO, but I will stay away from that one.) However, if I had to bet on what Sun will announce, I would put my money on them trying copy the work we are doing (again) - this time on Blended. The increased use of open source in enterprises is undeniable. Mark Carges discussed this in his keynote and announced BEA's Blended Development and Deployment strategy last year. Spring integration and support was one component and Mark had Rod Johnson up on stage with him As mentioned in past blogs, open source frameworks are being used everywhere. Sun is sure to have noticed this, as well as the rise of other languages. Since there are a number of Java based environments for languages like PHP and Ruby, my guess is that they will also announce something here as well, unless the Java anti-bodies kick in and kill this off. We have seen this coming for a while, and have some research underway and are investigating this. We'll see what comes of it. Meanwhile you can read about our integration with Spring and download the Spring on WebLogic Kit.

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.

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