March 26, 2002 -- Here we are again, back at the JavaOne Conference in beautiful San Francisco -- a little earlier than usual, but the weather has been perfect and promises to improve as the week goes on (not that I'm here for the weather of course!). I believe attendance is down compared to previous JavaOne conferences. When asked for an exact attendance figure, a Sun Microsystems' spokesman didn't have a number.

Read the whole "The JavaOne Grapevine" series:

Over the course of the week, I'll write articles covering the hot technologies, important vendor news, and interesting opinions most relevant to Java developers. The major vendors all have strong presences; I'll cover each by the end of the week. The sessions and BOFs (birds of a feather meeting) look interesting, so all in all, I aim to get a lot out of JavaOne this year.

This article, the first of the four, touches Monday's general and technical keynotes, the TS-3243: The Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Overview and Roadmap session, BEA Systems' new WebLogic Developer tool, and some thoughts on the winners of the 2002 JavaWorld Editors' Choice Awards.

Without further ado, let's dive right into the conference.

The keynotes

Monday featured two keynotes: a morning conference keynote and an afternoon technical keynote. At Monday's morning conference keynote, Sun Microsystems' Chief Researcher John Gage, as usual, kicked off the proceedings, followed by a procession of Sun Microsystems VPs, and executive VPs including Executive VP Patricia Sueltz, VP Rob Gingell, and VP Rich Green.

Want the bluffer's guide to the keynotes? Here goes: Web services will change our world (yeah, right); mobile computing is where all the action is; Microsoft still works its evil; and James Gosling is still da man.

Sun clearly made an effort to focus Monday's keynotes on technical matters, a point echoed by Sueltz when she informed us that this year's conference emphasizes technology over marketing). Green presented impressive statistics on Java technology and its adoption worldwide, although I find his prediction of over 700 million Java-powered devices in existence by 2004 (up from 14.1 million last year) to be wildly over-optimistic. J2SE (Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition) 1.4 has clocked more than 1.25 million downloads since its release, according to Green, which bodes well for the latest evolution of the JDK.

Green also introduced an interesting project code-named "Monty," in which part of Sun's J2SE Hotspot JVM team works to improve J2ME (Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition). Green claimed performance improvements in the 5x to 10x range, reduced power consumption, and a trimmed memory footprint.

On the J2EE (Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition) front, Green made several announcements including the release of the Application Verification Kit (AVK), which aims to help developers ensure their J2EE applications conform to the various J2EE specifications. My interest was really piqued by this, and I'm (ahem!) looking forward to putting my projects through the AVK when I get home.

At 11 a.m., Sun Microsystems VP and Fellow James Gosling (a.k.a. Elvis) entered the building and we were treated to the usual robots display and t-shirt throwing competition. Gosling demonstrated an interesting (but not ground-breaking) Architect Studio application, as well as some of his real-time operating system (RTOS) work.

I guess I'm nonplussed about the hype around Web services and the focus on mobile/wireless computing. After speaking to a few developers, the feedback on the ground says that there aren't many companies using either Web services or worried about supporting wireless/handheld devices at present; it's not critical to their business. In my opinion, the hype concerning Web services isn't justified.

Technical session notes

I attended the TS-3243: The Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) Overview and Roadmap session to get a handle on the latest direction for the J2EE platform 1.4 release. I was, however, a bit disappointed because the session proved light on details and heavy on repeated J2EE filler material. Nevertheless, I did learn the importance of downloading the Java Web Services Developer Pack. As Mark Hapner, lead architect for J2EE, explained, the pack represents the on-ramp if you are heading towards J2EE 1.4. I guess I'll need to hit the individual sessions for in-depth information on EJB 2.1 and JavaServer Faces.

Vendor report: BEA Systems

In today's vendor focus, I look at BEA Systems. I had heard much about BEA's WebLogic Workshop (earlier called Cajun), so I was anxious to see if BEA is trying to put me out of a job! Don't worry folks, the WebLogic Workshop is a nice tool that allows people without in-depth J2EE expertise to construct applications that use J2EE technology under the hood. It focuses heavily on Web services, based on a custom, BEA-proprietary Java Web services (JWS) format. BEA plans to submit a JSR (Java Specification Request) for the format soon, and a little bird tells me IBM also seems interested in the JWS format.

Kyle Marvin, developer at BEA, walked me through the application and showed me several cool WebLogic Workshop features. For example, by adding a shock absorber icon to a Web service's entry point, you indicate that requests should be executed asynchronously, which the application facilitates by transparently setting up a JMS queue.

Sam Ramji, BEA product architect in technical marketing, says that BEA won't announce WebLogic Workshop licensing until the company releases Avalanche -- its complete 7.0 offering with WebLogic Integration, WebLogic Portal, and the WebLogic Workshop.

I think that the WebLogic Workshop can serve as the basis for a real value-add to the WebLogic platform, but I felt that at the moment, it won't massively affect development teams that adopt it. So the tool looks great, promises a lot, but I'll wait for version 2.0.

JavaWorld Editors' Choice Awards wrap up

The 2002 JavaWorld Editors' Choice Awards, held Monday night, lived up to my expectations. I was honored to serve as a judge for the awards, and it was great to see the developers for all the projects (finalists and winners) turn up to be the stars of the show. If you haven't already heard, JBoss swiped Best Application Server, so kudos to the JBoss team. Thanks for a great open source offering.

Other winners of note? The Apache Ant 1.4.1 build tool from the the Jakarta Project won the Most Useful Java Community-Developed Technology, while Sun Microsystems' Forte For Java 3.0 won Best Java IDE. The "Best Picture" award (Most Innovative Java Product or Technology) went to Project Jxta from Jxta.org. I'm ashamed to say I know very little about Jxta, but it's on my radar now, and should be on yours too.

After the JavaWorld awards ceremony, I traveled to the Borland party down the street. I had hoped to see a demo of the latest JBuilder offering, but I had to settle for a few beers instead. Oh well, it's a dirty job but somebody had to do it. By the way, good party Borland, but there was no way I was singing that Borland song at the end!

Stay tuned

OK folks, that's my update for today. Tomorrow, check back for more vendor reports, technical session coverage, and analysis, as well as the skinny on JBossOne!

Humphrey Sheil, a Sun Certified Java Enterprise Architect, has worked on more than 25 enterprise Java projects in Europe and in the US, from initial scoping right through to live. Away from the office, he also researches the parallelization of neural network algorithms on compute clusters for bioinformatics applications at University College Dublin, Ireland.

Learn more about this topic