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JavaOne XI – Inner Beauty and Bad Feng Shui

Posted by dmax69 on May 17, 2006 at 10:14 PM PDT

I’ve never been to Mecca … not literally nor metaphorically. I did take a vision quest once, years ago earnestly seeking much needed insight via a journey through four Western states and my own inner landscape. I have also sought out connection points in many lands, when during the late-90s, the emergent phenomena of the Internet Café was something I joyfully discovered in so very many locales. Finding an Internet Café in Beijing or Istanbul or Mumbai was once a source of hope and optimism for me on journeys promoting the-network-is-the-computer technology itself. But I’ve never been to the actual Mecca…although I have been to Disneyland.

JavaOne, for programmers, is somewhere in between Mecca and Disneyland: filled with imaginary worlds, the hope for something better, lines of people, and ultimately, mirrors.


There are no lines at Disneyland when you enter the park. Getting in is the easy part. Once you are inside, however, you spend a lot of time in line, waiting for the rides, waiting to order food, waiting to wait to order food, or just waiting. JavaOne this year is a lot like that. Registration was smooth and easy…no lines spilling out from the Moscone and wrapping around the block as in previous years. But the lines to get into many of the technical sessions are ample and long. The processing has generally gone pretty fast, however; the lines don’t last long at all. For the most part, the sessions are very well attended this year.

I’ve heard it’s the best year for attendance ever…it seems to me to be better than the past few, thought it is admittedly very difficult to say for certain. One thing’s for sure: the focus on developers this year was a conscious choice by the event organizers and it is making for an excellent outcome. My hat’s off to JavaOne planners and staff this year. Well done…much better than last year.

In my estimation, this JavaOne is the best of this century. There were a couple in the late 90s (’99 and ’00 come to mind) that will always remain untouchable from a “remember when” standpoint. But as far as the post 2000 events, this year is hands down the best event ever. Too bad the same can’t be said for Sun itself…

The rumor is that Sun must make a profit this quarter (ending June) or face deeps personnel cuts. How deep? Rumor has it we’re talking well into double digits. It’s a tough spot for the once proud Network Age icon. But Sun hasn’t been profitable for quite a while now, and the owners are getting understandably restless.

Gentle reminder: the purpose of the firm is to return value to its owners.

John Gage spoke of “inner beauty” during the opening keynote session at J1 this year…in my view, one measure of inner beauty is the ability of a company to return value to those very owners who risk their capital financing the firm. While some ventures can lose money on a regular basis and still satisfy that inner beauty constraint, Sun, as a public firm, does not fit that particular model. Growth (and SUNW is still a growth stock afterall) at some point needs to be recognized by significant and real ROI. That sort of inner beauty is the ultimate measure of a viable public firm and it is generally not expressed as net operating loss.

What does that have to do with JavaOne? Quite a bit, actually. As the gallant steward of the Java Platform, Sun must at least remain viable in order that the industry not suffer, yes? For years I have heard two things: 1) that Sun doesn’t actually make money from Java and 2) that Sun must maintain control of Java in order to ensure compatibility for the industry.

Is it just me, or has that logic stopped making a bit of sense?

Why does Sun even care about Java Compatibility if it persistently fails to turn a profit? At the end of the day, doesn’t the inner beauty of returning value to the owners trump any gallant industry concerns?

I’ve got a few ideas for how Sun can actually run with open source Java and not have to worry about compatibility…which I will save for another blog later this week. In the mean time, I’m pleased to report that the mood at JavaOne this year seems to be pretty decent. Developers that I have met are satisfied with the content, the logistics and the focus. Well done, JavaOne staff.

In terms of open source Java, the “we’re really thinking about it” story from Sun is not only getting old…it’s bad corporate feng shui. If you don’t make money from Java, why does it make sense to steward compatibility on behalf of the industry? You will sell more or less of what exactly?

Appended to my list of interesting things at JavaOne this year, at the dawn of the second Java decade:

4) Regarding open source Java, it’s not a question of if but how.

5) The “how” of open source Java may possibly include a litany of interesting options, like “tied to the heels of flying pigs”, “hovering over my dead body” and “by arranging deck chairs on the Titanic as it flies over the Moscone Center.”

6) Profit is not an accident; it is a function of a firm’s inner beauty. The “Java Compatibility” thing may simply be a symptom of bad corporate feng shui.

The Flying Titanic

A final note: a piece of the Titanic was raised over the sidewalk outside the Moscone Center on the Wednesday of the 11th JavaOne … destined for a museum-showing on a high floor at the Metreone next door, the Titanic flew over the Moscone. Now, about that open source Java thing…

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