Special Reports

Wrapping the Java Rap

Open sourcing Java was the buzz at JavaOne, and discussions among attendees influenced part of the 2006 Java Technology Roundtable. Find out the experts' views on the state of Java.

Tradition is something we all look forward to in many social situations. The closing portion of Java Technology Roundtables during JavaOne conferences traditionally feature predictions for the Java community and the industry for the coming year. Whether the predictions are, well, predictable or a stretch, they are always insightful, interesting, entertaining, and in some cases provocative or controversial. The 2006 Java Technology Roundtable's technical-savvy dozen didn't disappoint when they provided their perspectives on what we can expect for Java in looking ahead toward the next JavaOne gathering in 2007 and beyond.

Java Visions
Simon Phipps: The end is indeed nigh. The time has come to get predictions. A wise industry visionary once said that "all technologies eventually reinvent Jini," so I would be fascinated to hear from each of you what your prediction is for the thing that we will be looking back to as the key step of 2006, 2007 when we'll meet here next year. Tell me, what's the big innovation in the industry?

Mike Milinkovich: Can I go first because mine's so obvious I'm afraid somebody else will say it?

Phipps: All right, then, Mike.

Ted Farrell: Here we go, "Eclipse will be the…"

Milinkovich: No, sorry to disappoint you. Sun will finally open source Java, in the next year, since we're going in the fearless predictions game…

Phipps: Do you have a prediction that's a little less safe?

Milinkovich: Like I said, it's so obvious I wanted to go first. What can I say? Now, the interesting thing is, and this is where the prediction gets fun, is how they go about doing that and exactly the licensing terms and the governance model that's applied to it is going to be the real news. I think we're all past the "if" and now we're into the "how" and the "when," and the "how" is actually going to be the really interesting news. It's going to have really important implications for how it gets embraced by the Linux community and the growth that it gets to see in places like that.

Farrell: Was that a prediction?

Frank Cohen: But your not prognosticating what that is, what that license will be.

Farrell: Take a chance, man.

Milinkovich: Take a chance?

Cohen: It's not the Apache license, right?

Phipps: Do tell me because I think this is going to occupy a lot of my time in the next year, so I'd love to know what you're predicting.

Milinkovich: Okay, Mike's fearless prediction: you're going to use CDDL, and you're going to use an OpenOffice, all-Sun governance model, and people will hate you for it. [laughter]

Phipps: Thank you for that proposal.

Milinkovich: Well, you asked.

Phipps: Next, that is, we're going to go in a random order here. Who would like to go next? Ted.

Farrell: I think the browser space is going to evolve into something completely different. Ajax is the hot thing this year. With all of the focusing on that, Ajax sort of came about as a solution to using existing technologies. I think with Microsoft's next generation and Adobe and all the work going into it, I think you're going to see more of utilities and features from the desktop being blended in and the browser sort of going away, and having much more capabilities in the Web-distributed apps.

Phipps: Go next, Larry.

Larry Cable: I'll go next. Well, I don't care if Java is any more open than it is today. It's open enough for me. I don't see a great deal of value in opening it up any further. I don't think that's going to be particularly earth shattering from where I'm sitting. I totally agree, I think Ajax is going to grow in importance, and I think we're going to have some work there to figure out how that gels with Web services on the server side. I think Java EE 5 and EJB 3 are going to really inject a lot more interest in the EE platform and revitalize that, and I absolutely believe that scripting languages on the Java platform, particularly in the EE environment, is really going to capture a whole new breed and class of developer and application on that platform.

In Spec Years
Ari Zilka: This is a prediction that won't get addressed this year but will be painfully obvious by JavaOne next year, which is the Java developer community will call the JCP on the gaps in JPA, on Java EE, EJB 3, and will say this is not POJOs, this is POJO-like, and you've got to get rid of the notion of merge, and you've got to get rid of the notion of an object home or an entity manager because I want my objects to move all the way up into the browser so I can do Java in this new browser-type thing, not JavaScript, not something like that.

Sam Pullara: This is a pretty short amount of time, only a year. You know in JCP time that's like a quarter of a spec. [Laughter]

Cable: It never used to be.

Pullara: Yeah. Between now and next year I think Java EE will become very popular. I think that very, lightweight—and when I say "lightweight" Java development—I mean you'll be able to test outside of the container, testing will become more and more interesting, you'll be able to build software faster, [and] the IDEs are going to go crazy in the next year. We finally have a GUI builder in NetBeans, it's almost as good as Interface Builder on the Mac—it's going into Eclipse as well, I hear, Matisse—and the refactoring stuff. They never delete any of those; they're going to get a lot better over time.

As a further prediction I think one of the things we've been talking about is what's going to happen with Java in the long term? I think Java will be the COBOL, and then as it gets older it will be the C, and then as it gets older it will be the C++… and one of the things that we really talked about is that Java is going to be the Assembly language of the future. I do believe that.

Bob Blainey: I'll go next. Just to follow on a little bit, I'm not sure Java EE 5 is going to light the place on fire. I think that people will look to Java EE 5 and Java SE 5 as a point at which Java should be plateauing and entering a state of maturity in its lifetime. Partly this is sort of the growing frustration with the evolving platform, and it can't grow possibly any larger, and I can still understand it, but I think also that we did turn the corner on Java EE 5 and focused on simplicity. I think it's a very good stabilization point for the platform, so I think we'll see an evolving interest in customers saying, "Stop. Make this thing robust; make it mission critical." I think there will be a lot of focus on the underlying aspects and implementation of the platform to make sure that this is something that I can bet my business on.

Phipps: So are you suggesting that we don't need Java SE 6?

Blainey: Not really. SE 6 is not a very interesting extension of SE 5, at this point. I'm not suggesting that Java won't evolve. What I'm suggesting is that it may evolve at a pace that say a Fortran has evolved, right? Every five to seven years there's a new fairly interesting set of extensions, but really there's probably not much point doing anything sexier than that.

Plugging Away
Rob Gingell: I wasn't at any of the previous ones of these [Roundtables], so as far as I know I may not be at any of the next ones either. I [want to] get the trifecta right because what I could come up with next year wasn't that interesting, it was basically what [was] said about enthusiasm and so forth. I think the year after that people are going to realize that we've spent the last decade and a half building a bunch of programming pro frameworks, which are the API half of an operating system and not many people have been building the resource management half of the network operating system, which is good because that is what my company does. So I think people will begin to realize that. And then in three years out, Jini won't be rediscovered, but its grandchild will be discovered and people will finally catch up.

Farrell: And I'd add to that, "Oracle, Oracle, Oracle." [Laughter]

Gingell: I can't disagree.

Cable We did the shameless plugs already.

Cohen: From my perspective, 2004 was really a tough time for the Java industry because most of the developers looked at Sun as really being behind the curve. What Sun's response was, was here's Java EE 1.4, with its huge focus on Web services, which was absolutely no help to anybody. What I see with Java EE 5, the reaction seems to be—you know, because they've all been exposed to Beehive and annotations and some great work that preceded it—well, Sun seems to be ahead of the curve now. What I suspect though is that Sun is going to enter into at least a five- or longer-year effort to bring XML into the platform because today businesses are being run by XML, and Java has so many holes to fill in terms of the language itself, in terms of how you persist XML, [and] all the database work that needs to be done for native XML databases. All of that's going to occupy us, and so my hope is that 2007 JavaOne is an XML-focused JavaOne.

Phipps: Interesting. Dave, you're next.

Dave Chappell: Let's see, in light of much of the conversation today, I'd say that the proliferation of different languages and platforms is going to continue to happen. But I'd say the largest challenge being faced by IT is in the overall governance of all the applications that are being built on these different platforms, which may be exposed through a service-oriented architecture or maybe exposed through some other acronym—basically software components communicating across the network and how we are going to manage that proliferation in a way that can be controlled by some sort of an IT governance structure.

That Mobility Guy Again
Phipps: Okay. Jon.

Jon Bostrom: I'll probably comment on the mobile side, if that's okay.

Phipps: Go on. Go for it. I'll allow it this once.

Bostrom: I think—and to be just slightly off color, hopefully controversial—next year will be the time when the industry realizes how fun and exciting it can be to have a server in your pocket.

Cable: Are you happy to see, me or is that a server in your pocket? [Laughter]

Bostrom: Exactly.

Tim Bray: I would say that by this time next year there will be increasingly widespread perception that the stack of standards around WS-* has largely failed, and anybody who puts significant tooling and resources, significant energy and investment, into tooling and tools around lightweight, REST-flavored Web services is going to look like a major genius.

Phipps: Fascinating. So my prediction is that the availability of the Java platform on GNU Linux is going to open up a whole new market for Java developers throughout the world, and personally I think that's the most significant announcement we've had here—but then that was my announcement, so that was my plug.

Once again, thank you all for running the gauntlet of discussion at the Java Pro Roundtable, and I look forward to being with you next year, whichever company you're working for.

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