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Sun Revamps Its 'Java Everywhere' Message

JavaFX, open source Java Development Kit, and mobile partnerships highlight the company's attempts to simplify Java on multiple devices.
Sun has long pushed the concept of "Java everywhere," and is quick to throw out global stats that point to its ubiquity: 6 million developers, 5.5 billion devices, including 1.8 billion mobile phones. For those numbers to grow, however, even Sun acknowledged that Java development needed to get easier. "Java has historically been too hard," Schwartz told reporters.

In addition, Java has had performance problems on mobile devices, while also facing competition from other technologies, such as Flex from Adobe Systems, the Symbian operating system supported by Nokia and others, and Microsoft's Silverlight, released in beta last week. "Java has had lots of traction, but it also has what it didn't have before -- competition," Michael Dortch, analyst for the Robert Frances Group, said in an interview with InformationWeek.

While handset manufacturers have yet to announce plans to use JavaFX, Ericsson joined Sun onstage to announce plans to jointly develop through the open source GlassFish project a communications application server for running "next generation software" for showing multimedia, and delivering services, such as Internet telephony and instant messaging. "We want to be a pioneer in the open-source community," Martin Harriman, vice president of marketing and business development for multimedia at Ericsson, said.

Green also was joined on stage by representatives from Nasdaq, which uses Java in its electronic trading applications; and Sony, which is using Java for navigation to special features embedded in movies shipped on high-definition discs based on the Blu-ray high-definition format.

As part of its global message, Sun brought on stage Dr. Djibril Diallo, head of the United Nations' office of sport for development and peace. Diallo joined Schwartz in announcing plans to form Engineers Without Borders, a nonprofit group that would solicit the help of software engineers in building technology that could deliver Internet-connected devices to developing nations. The idea is to help these countries evolve through access to information from the rest of the world.

"What matters most to the developing world is access," Schwartz told reporters. "Mobile phones give access. Java will play a central role in bringing the Internet to the planet."

With the emphasis on free -- open source software and philanthropy -- the obvious question is how Sun plans to make money for shareholders. Schwartz told reporters that the world is divided into two camps: "Those that can and will pay for technology and those that cannot or will not pay for software," he said. Sun continues to aggressively pursue the former, while looking to the latter; particularly the billions of people who can't afford computers and mobile phones, to grow the technology market in the future.

JavaFX, particularly the new JavaFX Script, fits into that plan of growing the market by offering technology for creative professionals building user-facing software, not just hard-core developers building business applications to run on a computer server. "The goal of the development tools is to greatly increase the number of people building Java applications and then throwing them at everyone else to see what sticks," Dortch said. "It's like spinning a roulette wheel and putting multiple balls in it."

The next step in making JavaFX Script useful to non-developers is development tools that incorporate the language, without requiring much coding. Those tools are in the works, Green said, but no timetable was given on delivery.

Besides Java on mobile, Green at the news conference hinted that Solaris could one day become a platform for mobile devices. "I wouldn't be surprised if we put a lot of effort into that," Green said. The primary focus, however, remains Java for now.

In what seemed like a nod to the past, Green and Schwartz brought McNealy on stage to discuss his nonprofit work in using the Internet for education. The wisecracking < a href="http://www.sun.com/aboutsun/executives/mcnealy/bio.jsp">former CEO, now Sun chairman, was known for his digs at Microsoft in past JavaOne conferences through his top 10 lists.

True to character, McNealy couldn't help kidding his colleagues, telling Green that his black jeans and T-shirt made him look like a "T-shirt version of Steve Jobs." Jobs, chief executive of Apple, wears a black turtleneck during appearances at Apple conferences.

He also commented on Schwartz saying earlier on stage that he's happy not to have to do the keynote this year. "I'm happy I don't have to do the earnings call anymore," McNealy said. "The chairman job is a good gig, if you can get it."