Is This A Trade Show Or A Rock Show?

So Neil Young is apparently going to perform at JavaOne next week, where he's expected to belt out his <i>Keep on Rockin' in the Free World</i> anthem. Hey, hey. My, my. Will the encore be <i>Needle and the Damage Done?</i>

Michael Singer, Contributor

May 2, 2008

3 Min Read

So Neil Young is apparently going to perform at JavaOne next week, where he's expected to belt out his Keep on Rockin' in the Free World anthem. Hey, hey. My, my. Will the encore be Needle and the Damage Done?Don't get me wrong. I like and truly respect Neil Young. In a world of posers and fake musicians, Young has stood as a true artist who knows his craft and is committed to keeping it real. My favorite urban legend about Young comes from the 30th anniversary Bob Dylan tribute he did for television. Furious that there was a teleprompter on stage, Young purposely transposed the 6th and 4th verses of All Along The Watchtower. He later said he knew the words in the right order and was just pissed off that anyone would need a teleprompter for that. Classic.

Now remember, Young isn't performing at the Bridge School benefit or for another Farm Aid, this is JavaOne.

The media alert that went out this morning said this: "Neil Young and Sun will make an announcement during the [keynote] event, and provide a special demonstration of a new multimedia music project. Come hear and see what Java technology means to Neil Young."

Hmm, last time I checked the only Java that Young ever stood behind was maybe a banner that read: "Bush Lies, Global Warming is Here!, Rebuild Post-Tsunami Java." But I digress.

This is not to say that Young is a sellout. That's not something you call Young. This is more marketing by Sun. And very effective at that. Getting big celebrities to stand next to your technology is a wonderful branding technique, albeit vastly overdone. In the 12 years that I've been covering this industry I've seen more bands as opening acts for technology conferences than I ever saw in college.

Apple is the best for getting good talent to perform. I've seen U2, John Mayer, KT Tunstall, Sarah McLachlan, and Kanye West thanks to Steve Jobs and Co. I've also seen Kansas open for RSA and a lovely African band to open JavaOne 2007 (which was a run-up to Sun's embrace of Ubuntu Linux that year).

This leads me to my next thought. Why Neil Young? And why Sun? Well, the obvious answer is that Sun wants to promote its renegade spirit, its green initiatives, and this multimedia music project that the company is expected to announce. Fair enough.

Despite its wide impact in the market (6 million software developers worldwide, and powers more than 5.5 billion devices including mobile phones, smartcards, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, PCs, and car navigation systems) Java is being threatened by Adobe's Flash (see Nick Hoover's assessment for more on that). So it will be interesting to see how Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz ties Java to Neil Young. Schwartz will be the younger-looking one with the ponytail. Hopefully, the younger members of the audience won't get bored and start texting during the performance. I know the tie-dye set will be having Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Crazy Horse flashbacks. And remember: This Note's For You.

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