An Interview with Robert Brewin
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Dave: The demos that we are seeing here of JavaFX Mobile seem to have been put together very quickly--in some cases, people have even bragged about it. Given the importance here at the show, why was all this done in such a rush?
Bob: Some of the demos were actually created quite a while ago. Some were not. We wanted to take some existing sites and get a similar experience on JavaFX, and in some cases, it took us a while to secure the rights to be able to use these onstage. There were some that we wanted to show, from some movie studios, but we couldn't because of the royalty and copyright issues for showing actor likenesses at the keynote. In some cases, we got permission right before the show. Now, the flip side of that is a pretty interesting story, in that in a weekend, we can actually create a complete replica of something like the Motorola site. That really speaks to the speed of development in JavaFX Script.
Dave: The device you are showing looks very cool, and of course the next question people ask is "where can I get it?" Why announce it before you have any alliances in place for device manufacturing?
Bob: We want to show the vision. We want to show that Sun "gets it," and we want to show where the market is moving and where demand will be. If you look at the potential market for consumer devices, they far outnumber the traditional desktop. We know that providing solutions in this space is incredibly valuable, and we want to drive the solutions in this space.
Dave: When can we expect to see some more announcements in this space?
Bob: I would expect that you will see a continuing set of announcements throughout the next year, exact timeframe still to be determined, and we'll announce roadmaps as they firm up.
Dave: I am thrilled to hear about the consumer JRE. When I was on the JSR for Java 6, we were really concerned about adding more baggage to the language, and I'm glad to see a plan to address it. What can you tell me about it?
Bob: Besides the fact that I'm thrilled too? [laughs]. I think that this is a requirement moving forward. If you look at what we are trying to do with JavaFX mobile, we have got to fix the JRE issues related to size of download, size of installation, time to cold start, etc. All these things are related to having a large piece of software with a whole bunch of things in there you probably don't need.
The current plan is that we are going to start seeing some of these features appear in Java 6 update 2, and more in update 3, and beyond.
Dave: So what is the mechanism for that? Are there going to be pieces removed, and downloaded on demand in the cases where they are needed?
Bob: Exactly. Much like the Java 7 kernel project where you will start with a really small piece and download other pieces as necessary, this is the same general principle, just moved where possible to Java 6. Java 6 update 2 will contain the pieces that most people need, and other pieces will be lazily downloaded in the background as needed, hopefully in a way that doesn't affect normal usage patterns.
Dave: So then the next problem is getting that version to replace all the Java versions that are already out there. What is the plan to make that ubiquitous?
Bob: On the consumer side, I expect we have less of a problem with people accepting updates, as opposed to the corporate environments where adoption rates are throttled by IT staff. There are a number of things we are doing to help promote Java 6 into corporate environments, such as the assistance we offered to companies to migrate their platforms when Java 6 came out. Also, Java 6 didn't include world-changing new language features, and included plenty of new material for application and performance monitoring that should help make IT departments more willing to upgrade. The nice thing is that once people update to this new version it will be much easier to naturally push out updates.
Dave: I have spent a lot of time looking at all the products on the show floor, and I think that the sleeper hit of JavaOne 2007 is Project Black Box [Editor's note: Project Black Box is a complete datacenter packed into a standard shipping container.] Can you tell me more details about it and talk about any real situations it is or will be used in?
Bob: I can't really talk about any potential customers yet, that is a little too early, however there are a lot of customers extremely interested in it, across a wide numbers of industries. Have you walked through it yet?
Dave: Yes, I took the tour yesterday.
Bob: So, Black Box holds a rather unique promise in that it is a self-contained, fully qualified datacenter in a box. It is an amazing feat of engineering, all the thought that has gone into the networking, cooling, power, and other facilities inside are rather incredible. We wanted to have it operational on the show floor, but ran out of time. I don't want to single out any company in particular, but as a hypothetical example look at Inuit [the makers of TurboTax]. They might need a whole lot of extra capacity for their data center approaching April 15th [Editor's note: The date U.S. federal taxes are due] so the ability to truck in extra data center capacity when and where you need it, even just dropping it off in the parking lot if necessary, is a really compelling use case for a company in that situation.
Dave: So, do you have a sleeper hit candidate for the show? What aren't people talking about but they should?
Bob: I'm tempted to say NASA's WorldWind, but I did a keynote on that so people know about it. The potential with that is enormous.
Hmm. My sleeper hit would be this interesting project I saw from this dutch company--Dexels. This is an approach for using scripting to create applications that are using web services. They have rolled this out in the Netherlands to hook up sports bars to data feeds from sporting events. On one side they are providing a declarative model for creating arbitrary UIs on top of their framework, but the cool part is the underlying piece that does all the web service interaction. If I were going to pick one thing to tell people to go look at, that would be it.
Dave: Do they ever make you stand downstairs in the Duke costume and take pictures with the attendees?
Bob: (laughs) No, just surfer costumes. The Duke costume doesn't fit anyway.
Dave: Well, Thanks a lot...thanks for your time.
Bob: Sure. You're welcome. I'm glad we found the time to get together.
David Bock is the editor of O'Reilly's OnJava.com website, the President of the Northern Virginia Java Users Group, and a Principal Consultant at CodeSherpas.
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