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An Exclusive JDJ Interview With Sun's Jonathan Schwartz

An Exclusive JDJ Interview With Sun's Jonathan Schwartz

Java developers will have noticed in the past few weeks that Sun has already begun to crank up a new "unified" approach to its software business. Sun gave JDJ an exclusive chance to ask questions, offering you the reader the opportunity to ask Jonathan Schwartz, the dynamic young executive VP of Sun's new Software Group, what's going on at Sun.

<kan>: I've been working exclusively with Java since its birth. I'm a big fan, especially of Sun's Java. However, this past year I noticed that Sun's stock wasn't doing well. Many people, Microsoft folks included, have started to claim that Sun won't be around in five years. I'm really concerned; I know Java will be fine because of broad support from the industry, but I would like to see the creator of Java always be the leader of Java.

<jonathan schwartz>: Sun has plenty of staying power. We are coming off a seasonal low period and making some adjustments to get back to profitability. If any tech company is doing well in this economy, it's Sun. Just take a look at our annual report. We've been generating cash every quarter, we have a strong balance sheet, and we've been gaining market share against our competitors in both the high and low ends of the market. And we made those gains even though telecommunications and financial services - two of our bigger markets - have been hit hard in the current economic downturn. That's what I call resilience. Despite tough times for the high-tech industry and the world economy, we believe network computing is the future. From wireless phones to automobiles, game players to vending machines, embedded controllers to environmental sensors - all kinds of things are being connected to the network. When economic conditions improve, we intend to be ready. We're managing our resources very carefully in order to protect R&D and to continue bringing out compelling products.

As Java technology integrates the world of IT with the world of mobile communications, the next generation of computing will open up. Just as every previous generation of computing has brought new efficiencies and better productivity to individuals and enterprises, we think the one developing now will provide great benefit to us all.

I think it's worth noting that there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the high-tech sector. It's a lagging indicator, not a leading indicator. When the leading economic indicators - employment, GDP growth, consumer confidence - point in the right direction, tech will go back to being a shining light of the global economy. And Sun will play an important role. I have no doubts.

<yeshwant satam>: This may sound like a broad question: In addition to Web services, what other technology directions is Java targeting?

<schwartz>: Certainly Web services is the main new feature to use with J2EE and the rest of the Java platform. The Java Community Process has defined cross-platform APIs for all the key Web services technologies: XML, UDDI, ebXML, SOAP, WSDL, etc. They are available for download today - over 217,000 have already been downloaded.

Other technical directions? One would be continuing to build out the J2ME platform - by far the most widely deployed full-featured application and services technology in the mobile marketplace. Thirty million handsets, 19 deployments worldwide - and more to come. Subscribers have the ability to play full-color games, access data from the Internet, take and send digital photos with camera-equipped handsets. Lots of opportunities here.

We also want to help developers leverage the broadest range of compatible application support in the industry. Java gives you a common, compatible application platform that ranges from J2EE on any sized server to J2SE on the desktop to J2ME on next-generation devices, such as wireless phones, pagers, PDAs, and other handsets, all the way down to smart cards. To speed things along, we're creating support programs like the Java Application Verification Program for the Enterprise to help ensure that IT is gaining efficiencies by building applications that run across all versions of J2EE. And we have programs for developers, like the Java Blueprints for J2EE and J2ME, that give "best practices" advice.

Then there's the Java Card, which provides a flexible, semiconductor-based computing environment that can run small Java applications. Like the rest of the platform, it's highly secure and can be used in a variety of ways: embedded in a credit card, as an identity badge, or as a Subscriber Identity Module in a mobile phone. Sun has built an end-to-end identity solution around the Java Card that's being put to use in major projects such as the U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Card and the 22 million cards that the Bureau of National Health Insurance of Taiwan is issuing. Altogether, more than 240 million Java Cards have been deployed, providing another new frontier for developers to explore.

<luis araujo>: Are there plans to bundle JDO into the J2EE environment, in spite of its competition with CMP entity beans? Is Sun going to develop an official implementation?

<schwartz>: As the specification lead, Sun has produced a Reference Implementation of JDO, but there are currently no plans to include JDO as part of the J2EE platform specification. If the J2EE expert group sees sufficient adoption of the JDO specification in enterprise environments, it may consider JDO for inclusion in the J2EE platform.

<bill power>: Will JSR127 (JavaServer Faces) be adopted and supported by Sun ONE products once finalized by the expert group?

<schwartz>: Yes, JavaServer Faces will be included in the Sun ONE Application Framework 3.0, scheduled for the first half of 2003. Sun wants to have the first compliant product in the market.

<dan wellisch>: I'm concerned about Java on the client side. It has so much potential, yet I feel there's not enough marketing of client-side Java to the industry. Also, is Sun putting enough money behind Java? Are they finding ways to make money in software? I have heard that Sun pushes Java only to the extent that it can sell more hardware. If this is the case, then client-side Java will never be as refined as it can be because desktop hardware is not something Sun is known for.

<schwartz>: We have continued to enhance the J2SE platform with the 1.4.1 release. The Sun implementation has posted a world-record benchmark performance, and we are continuing to add improvements to the user interface technologies. Sun is making major investments in the desktop, not only in the wider distribution of the latest Java Virtual Machine, but in new Linux desktops, which will include Java technology. We invest in Java to advance our anywhere/anytime/any device vision of network computing. We believe it opens up the market, not just for our hardware, but for our software and services as well.

<jon strayer>: Why are you talking up Linux on the desktop and not Java?

<schwartz>:There's no contradiction. We've always made Java available on various platforms, including Linux. It's just that we've decided to sell Linux desktops, bundled with GNOME, Mozzilla, Evolution, StarOffice, and the latest desktop Java technologies, including Java Card for secure identification. We think there's a market for these systems in classrooms and call centers, banks and retail outlets - places where the systems may have a limited number of functions but an almost unlimited numbers of users. I mean, why should customers pay Microsoft's monopoly rents if they don't have to?

<rob diana>: What additional APIs do you see being added? There are a large number of APIs in Java already; are there any glaring omissions? I have heard rumors about artificial intelligence APIs being added. Is there any truth to this? Is this really necessary given the number of algorithms and concepts in AI?

<schwartz>: The Java Community decides what new APIs will be developed. Since 1999, the community has approved 190 new specification requests to add or upgrade functionality, with Sun participating in many of the expert groups. Today, Java reaches from end to end in the world of computing, and part of Sun's focus is to also have the platform reach from top to bottom, to integrate everything that developers need to have a rich and robust application development and deployment environment. The short answer is that APIs track to what the community needs.

<a Java developer>: Why doesn't Sun just hand Java off to a standards body, so it can become dominant and win James Gosling a Nobel prize?

<schwartz>: First of all, James should win a Nobel regardless of how Java is governed. The technology he pioneered has already become virtually ubiquitous. Every major technology company (except one) has adopted Java technology, and 80% of the world's companies are using it in their business systems. It runs on PCs, wireless phones, set-top boxes, smart cards, and network servers - not to mention about 7 million Web pages.

How should it be governed? We believe the Java Community Process is working very, very well. There's broad industry involvement and the platform has matured rapidly as a result. While Sun has representation in the Java Community Process and works on many of the expert groups, it has no blanket veto power. We can veto a change to the language or the creation of a new edition - that's all. And we've never even done that.

We tried twice to work with traditional standards bodies, but in neither case could they find a way to legally secure the continued compatibility of the platform. Compatibility is Java's core value proposition. The JCP has done a great job of making Java open and available, while continuing to build and expand the platform.

<david rosenstrauch>: What are your plans (if any) to improve Java on the client (and Swing), technology-wise? What are your plans (if any) to improve Java on the client, business-wise (i.e., help improve the adoption of Java on the client side)?

<schwartz>: We are constantly working to improve the performance, UI, and distribution of J2SE. We've been gradually increasing the level of hardware acceleration for Java2D graphics in each Java release. As you know, everything that's rendered by Swing is done through Java2D, so this directly benefits Swing. In the current release (1.4.1) the Win32 implementation of Java takes advantage of both DDraw and D3D. We will continue to tune performance.

One new hardware acceleration strategy we're working on is having Java2D target OpenGL, as Apple does in their Java implementation. This approach provides cross-platform hardware acceleration for the Java2D implementation and the work we've done looks very promising.

Distribution of the Java Virtual Machines on the desktop is an issue we are still working on. We need to get an up-to-date version of the JVM on the new desktop systems being sold and upgrade the older versions on existing PCs. We are working with PC OEMs to bundle the JVM on their systems, and we have decided to offer the industry an alternative Linux and open software-oriented desktop system. The Java JVM is a key part of the software that will make up the system.

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For future Ask JDJ sessions and to have your questions answered, please check www.n-ary.com/java/jdj/askjdj.cfm.

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JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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Most Recent Comments
Lisa Dunlap 01/15/03 06:51:00 PM EST

Sun is backing Java on the client by their partnership with Altio, a company that provides a visual IDE and presentation server for rapidly building rich data centric applications in the browser.

These applications are based on a very tiny, fast applet, less than 200k, that runs in the sandbox.

Sun just needed to see an innovative approach to optimizing Java on the client and it came in the form of Altio.

Robert Blumberg 01/10/03 10:48:00 AM EST

Seems like David asked Jonathan about 3 times, in various permutations, why Java doesn't seem to be backing Java on the client side and Jonathan consistently avoided answering. In this case, a no-answer is a NO, i.e. Java seems to have completely backed away from client-side Java. It would at least be interesting to understand Sun's perspective on this rather than to have to interpret their silence.
--Robert