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JavaOne: Then and
The week of the JavaOne conference was a huge one for the Java industry. Dozens of press releases about new products that do things that have never been done before (or at least not in a platform independent manner). The largest software developers conference ever was truly a spectacle that was a joy to be a part of, but where did all the excitement go? It has been a few months since the historic conference, and what has happened to all these incredible products that were touted as being the latest killer apps?
One of the biggest buzzes at the JavaOne conference was the upcoming and greatly anticipated release of the JDK (Java Development Kit) version 1.2. The week of the conference the Beta 3 release of JDK 1.2 was released to be tested, but at currently that is still the only version available to the general public. In the mean time they did come out with JDK 1.1.6 which fixes some bugs and makes things a bit faster by including the Symantec JIT (Just in Time Compiler).
What about this marvelous HotSpot technology that was praised at the conference? Well I read a few more praising articles last week about HotSpot, but with no more depth then the information given out at the conference, and there certainly isn't a demo or even alpha version to run a test against.
A few of Sun's products have actually been updated since the conference though. There is a new version of the JFC (Java Foundation Classes), but based on my experience and that of my peers it is still considered unusable due to it's lack of speed (unless all of the programs running it were PII 400s). A new version of the JavaMail product was released last week, they are on version 1.0.2 now (even though they still don't support POP3, nor do they plan to in the upcoming future).
InfoBus, this technology that allows multiple applets sharing the same VM to communicate with each other, even if they didn't have prior knowledge of each other, was also big news at the conference, as they released version 1.1 of the product. After checking just today to see what was going on with the product, I see they are still on version 1.1.
I have certainly not covered every product that Sun's Java division is working on, but those are the big guys, and they have been pretty stagnant since the conference. It's ok though, since Sun isn't the only company that has been quiet about new Java products since the conference. Quiet is certainly relative in the Java arena, since you get between 5 and 10 either new products or new releases of a product that uses or is entirely written in the Java language, every week. So it isn't that the use of Java is stagnant, it is just the language itself that has not made much, if any, headway in the last few months, or at least not as much headway as was expected after the hype of the conference.
So what has happened since the JavaOne conference and what does it mean to you? The biggest news in the Java community, and one that we should all try to keep abreast of is the battle between Sun and Microsoft over Java standards. If Sun doesn't win this battle then writing programs in Java will be just like if not worse than developing very complex web pages, meaning it may work some places, but the chances it works everywhere is slim.
In conclusion, Java isn't perfect, and maybe it won't be for a long time, but with the capabilities that it promises it at least deserves a chance to get there. If it reaches it's goal of write once run anywhere it will hurt software industries that thrive on proprietary standards and closed systems. It is only those companies that are scared of a fair fight that would deny that the goal of Java is the pinnacle which software developers have wanted to reach for decades. Java isn't perfect now, it is far from perfect. There are dozens if not hundreds of bugs in the JDK, the JFC are too slow to be widely used, and much of the promise of write once run everywhere is left unfulfilled, but if we don't try to at least reach the goal of perfection, then we will be stuck writing a different program in a different language for every system, until another company comes up with a language like Java and the fight starts all over again. Let's all stop playing games, and allow progress to be made.
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