Each year at the JavaOne conference, James Gosling talks about the language and Bill Joy talks about the technical vision.
In Tuesday's JavaOne keynote speech, Gosling talked about the two most-requested language features that will be added to the language. Assertions will be included in the Java 1.4 release this fall, and Generics (also known as parameterized types or templates) will be added to the language with the Java 1.5 release.
At Wednesday's keynote speech, Sun CTO George Papadopoulis delivered a variation on talks that have been given by Joy as well as by Jini architect Jim Waldo. He outlined the steps from an application running on a single machine, to an app on a client-server, to an n-tier and beyond.
You get more flexible, robust systems from decomposing the applications and distributing them across the Net. Once you can send "state and functionality" over the Internet, the way you think about applications should change. The value, Papadopoulis argued, comes from recomposition of these pieces.
As we move from an Internet of hundreds of millions of computers to an Internet of tens of billions of things that embed computers, he urged us to think ahead to an Internet that consists of billions of things.
The Sun CTO pushed us to consider this future beyond web services and even beyond Jini. He reminded us that the Internet is bigger than the Web, and suggested we look for new applications that are different in the way that instant messaging was. "The most interesting clients," Papadopoulis said, "are the ones you no longer control."
Vision is important in the technology business. But as we're just getting used to the notion of web services, JXTA, peer-to-peer systems, and other new technologies, how far ahead can we realistically look?
This theme was later picked up by Tim O'Reilly in the roundtable discussion. He said that even though Microsoft's .NET is forward thinking, the model is very different than the one surrounding Sun initiatives like Jini and JXTA.
O'Reilly characterized the difference by saying that with .NET, Microsoft figured out what they want to own and "the rest is open." He contrasted that with Bill Joy's guiding principles that "we need to figure out what nobody ought to own and that is open."
Joy has been looking at how to get devices to participate with other devices. He's been thinking about building communities for 25 years. With Berkeley Unix this meant sharing source. With Java, this means sharing a common way of running code. With JXTA, there is a community of interacting devices.
There are no clear answers about our technology future. But the issues raised during this keynote, and at JavaOne as a whole are certainly worth thinking about.
Daniel H. Steinberg is the editor for the new series of Mac Developer titles for the Pragmatic Programmers. He writes feature articles for Apple's ADC web site and is a regular contributor to Mac Devcenter. He has presented at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference, MacWorld, MacHack and other Mac developer conferences.
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