JavaOne 06 DayOne

The streets of San Francisco teem with orange-and-black, belogoed backpacks, and a couple of short guys are waddling around the Moscone Center dressed as bipedal marshmallows.

It must be JavaOne .

Today is the opening day of the 11th annual migration of Java jocks to the City by the Bay. For my money, the biggest news of the day—though not the biggest surprise—was newly anointed CEO Jonathan Schwartz's official revelation that Sun plans to open-source Java. Schwartz made the announcement during his conference-opening keynote. ''The question is not whether we will open-source Java,'' he told a cheering crowd of conference attendees. ''The question is how.''

And when. When?

Later, Schwartz was nearly as forthcoming during his post-keynote press Q&A. Open-sourcing Java ''grows the tent,'' he said. ''It grows the market opportunity. With respect to what happens next, that's the beauty of open-source: you just don't know.''

We'll, we just don't know, because you just won't tell us.

Still, I get it. Sun is the guardian, but there's a community to consult. Sun's new EVP of software, Richard Green, who rejoined the company earlier this month, joined Schwartz onstage and talked about two ''battling forces:'' the demand for Sun to open up Java, and the Java community's concerns about future compatibility. ''This is something for us to go figure out,'' Green said.

Frankly, I've never been 100% convinced that Java needs to be open-sourced. I mean, it's inevitable and all that, and I'm all for openness, given the indisputable advantages of that remarkable model, tapping as it does so effectively into what author James Surowiecki so perfectly dubbed ''the wisdom of crowds.'' And I, too, have often asked why it's necessary for Sun to maintain proprietary ownership of Java. But I also have to ask, what exactly is broken about the Java Community Process? Aside from terminating the hectoring entreaties of certain IBM execs, what exactly does open-sourced Java get us?

Speaking of whom: Rod Smith, IBM's VP of emerging technology, issued a statement following the Schwartz announcement, which I received via email: ''IBM applauds Sun's action to commit to open sourcing Java, as the technology can thrive from collaborative innovation,'' Smith said in the statement. ''For more than 10 years, Java has grown in popularity, but the rate and pace of innovation has been limited by the degree of openness Sun was then willing to embrace. IBM's offer from two years ago still stands to help Sun open source Java.''

Nice that Big Blue wants to lend a hand to move the process along. Very generous.

But in truth, we're well on the road to OpenSourceJavaville. Big hunks of Java have already been released under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL). There's OpenSolaris, for which Schwartz is largely responsible. And Sun announced today that it is contributing even more of its software to open source, including Java Studio Creator, NetBeans Profiler, NetBeans Mobility, NetBeans Matisse, Web Services Interoperability Toolkit, BPEL engine (open sourced into Open ESB), and Sun Java System Portal.

Other stuff from DayOne:

Buzzword of the show: AJAX—by a mile. Lot's of sessions on Asynchronous JavaScript and XML at this year's show—even though Sun had a whole conference on AJAX about a week ago. Everybody's talking about it, and everybody's using it or planning to. (It's even buzzing next door at the Gartner ITxpo.)

Best new acronym: EPIC, which stands for Eclipse Plug-in Central, and which, to be completely accurate, isn't exactly new. EPIC is a Web portal created in 2004 by the EPIC Alliance, which consisted of three Eclipse Foundation member companies: Genuitec, Innoopract, and Instantiations. At least one report I saw suggested that EPIC was now ''merging'' with, but the Eclipse Foundation's executive director, Mike Milinkovich, explained to me that, in fact, EPIC is simply coming under Foundation management.

''Those three companies have long been leaders in the add-in provider community,'' he said, ''and they've been shouldering the burden of keeping the portal up and alive for two years. Both they and we thought that this seemed like a good opportunity to enlarge the Eclipse ecosystem and make more capabilities available to everyone in it.''

The portal provides a central repository where developers, vendors, and enterprises can find open-source and commercial plug-ins, tools, and add-on services to enhance their Eclipse development. The two extant URLs—EPIC's and the Foundation's—will not change.

Subtlest in-your-face fashion statement: JBoss CEO Marc Fleury's bright red beret. Fleury wore the chapeaux as he took the stage during Schwartz's conference opener to announce that JBoss (recently acquired by Red Hat) would be joining the NetBeans community. Schwartz presented Fleury with a T-shirt that read ''I love NetBeans.''

See, it was a beret, not a fedora, which is Red Hat's symbol, and Fleury is kind of an independent guy and French. Too subtle?

Most disappointing presentation: John Gage's conference opener. Gage, who is Sun's venerable Chief Researcher and Director of the Science Office, has been opening these shows forever. He has always served as a kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi, gently admonishing attendees—many of whom, let's face it, find social situations somewhat challenging and need a little nudge—to get out there and meet people and make the most of the conference. (My favorite Gage advice: ''Eat lunch with people you do not know!'' A simple, powerful strategy from one well acquainted with the dark forces of the tech conference.) But this year, Dr. Gage spent so much time on the online Schedule Builder that he began to devolve from conference guru to cruise director. I know... I know... Standing room only at the sessions, pre-registration necessary, blah-blah-blah... But come on. Gage's best advice this year: ''Always carry a pen,'' for making last-minute additions to that freakin schedule.

Best thing at the show for well-insulated reporters: The AC in Moscone is cranked. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

More tomorrow.


About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].