Excitement brewing for JavaOne 2010, with or without Google

Despite rumors of unrest, this year's JavaOne could be the platform's most significant conference ever

It's not often that I can honestly say I'm looking forward to a trade show, but this year's JavaOne, held September 19 to 23 in San Francisco, sounds like it's gearing up to be the most interesting event in the show's history. Not only is this the first JavaOne to be hosted by Oracle following its acquisition of Sun Microsystems last year, but it's also become the focal point of lively debate among the Java community.

Last week, Google announced it was backing out of this year's JavaOne, citing irreconcilable differences with Oracle management. Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google in August, alleging that the Dalvik virtual machine at the heart of the search giant's Android smartphone OS violates Java-related patents. That move inspired much chatter among the Java faithful, who worry that this legal action indicates a shift toward more heavy-handed governance of the Java platform under Oracle's wing.

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Among the malcontents is no less a presence than the father of Java himself, James Gosling, who last week launched a T-shirt campaign urging Oracle to stick to Sun's vision of a free Java. In a blog post, Gosling said he hoped JavaOne attendees would wear the shirts, "just to let Larry [Ellison] know you care."

Whether Oracle's legal wrangling will inspire other attendees to follow Google's lead and skip the show is unclear, but at least one company is using the hubbub around JavaOne to its own advantage. Software & Support Media (S&S), a sponsor of tech magazines and conferences based in Frankfurt, Germany, is reportedly launching a U.S.-based version of its JAX (Java Apache XML) conference. Like JavaOne, that conference will also be held in the San Francisco Bay Area, although a location has not yet been finalized.

Reports of JavaOne's death have been exaggerated

This is not the first time JavaOne's viability as the nexus of all things Java has been called into question. Some attendees even speculated that last year's conference would be the last, citing uncertainty following the Sun acquisition.

Instead, this year Oracle has combined JavaOne with its annual Oracle OpenWorld conference -- easily one of the largest tech conferences in the region, if not the largest. Each year OpenWorld takes over all three wings of San Francisco's Moscone Convention Center, in addition to some nearby hotels, and routinely closes down a few city blocks to traffic in order to host its extended parties and events. This year's conference will stretch as far as Union Square, five blocks away, where the Hilton will host JavaOne alongside Oracle's own Oracle Develop sessions.

According to reports, the star attraction at this year's OpenWorld will be Oracle Fusion Applications, which the company says will combine the best features of its own current business applications with those it gained from the acquisitions of JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, and Siebel. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has promised that the long-awaited Fusion Applications will ship this year.

The unrest around Java, however -- and particularly Oracle's pending litigation against Google -- is one topic Ellison cannot possibly ignore. According to reports, Ellison will be joined onstage at the show by Thomas Kurian, Oracle's executive vice president for product development, to discuss "Oracle's vision for strengthened investment and innovation in Java and describe how Java will continue to grow as the most powerful, scalable, secure, and open platform for the global developer community."

Weather system observed in teapot

So how significant is Google's absence from this year's JavaOne? Let's keep some perspective. Google is a big company, but although it has attended JavaOne in the past, its participation in the conference has never had a great impact. "Google is not a sponsor of JavaOne," wrote IDG News reporter Robert McMillan in 2009, "and the search giant has a minimal presence at this year's show."

Nor does it need much of a presence. That same search giant sponsors its own Google I/O developer conferences, also held annually in San Francisco, which cover a variety of topics relative to Google's Web-centric computing philosophy. This year's conference had such a strong emphasis on Android development that Google shipped free Android smartphones to every attendee in advance of the show.

And while it might be expedient for Google to give the impression that JavaOne is a hostile environment that crowds out dissenting voices, there's little real evidence of that. Last year, Microsoft delivered its first-ever keynote at a JavaOne conference, in which it pitched interoperability between Java and Microsoft's own .Net development platform. Oracle is a bitter rival of Microsoft, but so was Sun, having fought and won a protracted court battle over Microsoft's divergent implementation of Java six years ago.

At the end of the day, what Google really achieves by pulling out of JavaOne now is press coverage. The conference was never that important to the company, but winning the good graces of the Java development community definitely is, particularly if it foresees a lengthy legal squabble with Oracle over Android.

Time to move forward

Android developers will have already made up their minds about the Google/Oracle dispute. The rest of the Java development community, on the other hand, should take the present rumors of unrest with a healthy grain of salt. If anything, the fact that S&S Media is planning a second Java trade show in the Bay Area should be seen as proof that the Java developer ecosystem remains healthy and lively, with a bold future under Oracle's direction.

More important is just what Oracle might announce at the upcoming show. The promise of "strengthened investment and innovation" in the Java platform is good news, but so far Oracle company has been light on details. It's high time Larry Ellison outlined clear, specific goals for the next generation of the platform. And if he happens to see James Gosling's T-shirts in the audience while he does so, he should remember it's not because we're angry -- it's because we care.

This article, "Excitement brewing for JavaOne 2010, with or without Google" originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Neil McAllister's Fatal Exception blog and follow the latest news in programming at InfoWorld.com.

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