Java: Boring Has Its Virtues

This week, as the faithful turn out for Sun's sixth annual JavaOne Java developers conference, we're struck by how, well, boring JavaOne has gotten.

This week, as the faithful turn out for Suns sixth annual JavaOne Java developers conference, were struck by how, well, boring JavaOne has gotten. Gone is the glitter of a possible new Windows killer, a new operating system and the whole Java über alles message that Sun CEO Scott McNealy is so fond of pitching. Java developers have moved on, Scott.

Java is getting boring for a good reason: It now works most of the time. A few years ago, when Java was changing from month to month, attending JavaOne was mandatory to understand how to keep existing Java code working on new Java virtual machines. As long as the gangly Java was uncertain of its own identity, it couldnt move into critical projects.

Java is maturing into adulthood now and has found its first steady job: on the server. Java isnt about set-top boxes or a new client GUI; its about transactions, database access, security, threads and the invisible code that keeps key Internet services running. And in the future, well keep an eye out for Java in the embedded intelligence of the smart devices that may overtake PCs as our primary Internet access tools.

Thats OK. The history of inventions is full of discoveries that werent used as their designers first intended. Even JavaOne isnt really about Java anymore. While there are presentations on the next release of Java, Version 1.4, most of the action is in all the things that are developing around Java to make it more useful, such as technologies like XML, Enterprise JavaBeans and JavaServer Pages.

Weve been critical of Sun in this space before over its refusal to turn Java over to a nonpartisan standards body. We still hold that view—Sun needs to loosen those ties that still bind.

However, Java hasnt done badly in being multivendor and cross-platform, and the Java Community Process (Suns replacement for real third-party standards control) has been doing at least some good in keeping the curtain pulled back on the inner workings of the Java development process.

Microsofts high-profile court battles with Sun and its subsequent loss of access to current Java technology have not hurt customer access to high- quality Java virtual machines on Windows. Just as Windows will remain a key platform for running Java code, so Java will remain a key technology for running server-side logic. That is what is working well for IT, and that is why many Java developers now feel free to let the Java marketing machine roll on by while they focus on getting the code that really matters up and running