Sun’s Schwartz jumpstarts Java

SAN FRANCISCO — Sun Microsystems’ president and chief operating officer Monday showed off a Canadian company’s application to thousands of developers as an example of the kind of innovation on display at its worldwide JavaOne conference

this week.

As part of his keynote speech, Sun chief Jonathan Schwartz performed a product demonstration of Qnext, a peer-to-peer communication suite offering universal instant messaging videoconferencing, file sharing and more. Schwartz used Qnext, which was developed on Java by a Toronto-based company of the same name and released in public beta Monday, to communicate with executive vice-president of Sun Software John Loiacono.

Qnext and products like it prove Java — a Sun-developed technology for writing a single application that can run on any platform regardless of operating system or processor — remains a strong and vital part of the IT industry, Schwartz said.

More importantly, he said, Java-based applications are about to take a more prominent role on desktops and other computing clients that are proliferating among consumers and in corporate enterprises. These include the 350 million handsets Schwartz said run Java, as well as 600 million Java cards residing in ATMs and PCs.

“”I’ll tell ya, the desktop is coming back,”” he told the keynote audience, adding that the challenge for Sun is to make Java programming more flexible and easier than it has been in the past. “”We’ve got to move from where you need a PhD or a master’s or be a college graduate . . . to where you don’t require people with such advanced skills.””

Sun will attempt to address that problem with Monday’s official launch of Java Studio Creator, a $99 product that will use Java Server Faces to help users create sophisticated interfaces on applications. Formerly code-named Rave, Loicono said more than 40,000 people had downloaded early versions of Java Studio Creator in the first 60 days. About six companies have already deployed applications using it, he added.

JavaOne also saw the introduction of Java2 Standard Edition 1.5, a product formerly code-named “”Tiger”” designed to make Java-based applications run faster.

Instead of trying to generate revenue through sales of Java licences, Schwartz said Sun sees Java as a way of creating applications that will put more demands on corporate networks, fuelling the need for the kind of high-scale infrastructure the company has built its fortune on. He used the example of cell phone ring tones, which he said have helped the struggling recording industry, and welcomed Siemens VDO Automotive AG to demonstrate an in-car console that offered navigation, climate and entertainment applications.

In Canada, however, Java users continue to turn to Sun for more challenging data management work. Late last year, for example, Sun opened a Global Centre of Excellence at Mt. Sinai’s Toronto-based Samuel Lunfield Research Institute, which is trying to create the world’s largest database of protein-related information through a group called the Blueprint Initiative. The so-called biomolecular interaction network interface, or BIND, is a Web-accessible repository of both text and schematic diagrams intended to further research into diseases and drugs. Based on Java, so far it holds more than 90,0000 records.

Marc Dumontier, the Blueprint Initiative’s senior bioinformatics software developer, is not attending JavaOne but in a phone interview said his team is already looking at Java Studio Creator as a means of easing the way scientists would offer material to BIND’s curators.

“”We’re really interested in the Java Server Faces,”” he said. “”We have a pretty complex UI for our submission interface. It’ll be interesting to see how it can improve and clean up things that we’ve done.””

Developers like the Blueprint Initiative are using open source tools to work on their projects, and Sun is using JavaOne as an opportunity to discuss whether it will open source more parts of Java to the community. Schwartz committed to open sourcing Sun’s Looking Glass interfaces, but in a press conference following the show said more had to be done to sort out of the way open source and its licensing model would affect the Java Community Process. Sun is worried that open sourcing Java completely would “”fork”” the technology into different versions the way the Linux market has evolved around major distributions like Red Hat and Novell’s SuSE. Sun’s approach to Java today ensures healthy rivalry in the Java software market, particularly around price.

“”The CIO of Ford — what all CIOs want, really — is they want competition,”” he said. “”They want to get vendors in a room and beat the snot out of each other.””

Dumontier said open source Java isn’t critical now, but admitted that it could ease some of the work organizations do with Apache and Eclipse. “”It’s a great way to get things moving quickly,”” he said.

JavaOne continues through Friday.


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