Ah, Friday morning, the last day of . With the customer appreciation party over and done with last night, we now get to meander through Gosling’s Toy Show, maybe some McNealy banter, hit a couple of last minute sessions and then jump on the plane home. Well, all that would be true if it wasn’t 2010 and hadn’t become the output of the big red machine known as . So today IS the last day of JavaOne, but it is a Thursday, not a Friday and the party last night, well, I will happily be the first to admit it, was on a whole other level from anything had come close to conjuring up in previous years.

The last morning of JavaOne has traditionally had a unique feel to it. For starters, everyone is moving a bit slower because of the party the night before. A party where you can bare witness to the most socially awkward but jovial bunch of revelers you will ever likely come across. And there are those novice travelers who haven’t figured out what the luggage closet behind the bellhop’s stand at their hotel is for and so are trailing their giant suitcases valiantly behind them for later checkin at the airport. Those two things are actually the same this year (actually, to be honest, the Oracle crowd felt a little less socially awkward than the Sun crowd). But the rest feels quite unfamiliar today.

The Gosling Toy Show was always a little painful to watch – putting super-nerds on stage and expecting them to make semi-rehearsed repartee sound fresh and dynamic is always going to be a tall order. But it usually worked well enough to give you a warm and content feeling by the end that there were at least some folks in the Java community getting to work on cool projects. Now that the Toy Show is gone, I do find myself missing it. Oracle obviously acknowledged the traditional theme of the last day’s Keynote and did its best to try and capture that feeling, but I am not sure they quite achieved it.

To start with, the first half of the Keynote was given over to Ray Kurzweil (kurzweilAI.net), proven Inventor and proclaimed Futurist, but not an Oracle employee in any way. Kurzweil titled his presentation The Age of Embedded Computing Everywhere, which while interesting and even somewhat relevant to portions of the Java audience, was somewhat tangential.

Unfortunately, Kurzweil stumbled on a pet peeve of mine early in his presentation – skipping over slides in a slide-deck during a live presentation – so my interest waned quickly. The slides were obviously important enough to make in the first place, so please let us see them. If you genuinely feel the slide is not a good fit for your audience, then have the decency to remove it, that is Slideware 101. This horrible practice is bad enough in a room on an 8 x 8 screen in front of 12 folks. Doing it on a 40 foot high screen in front of 10,000 is exponentially worse. To rub salt into those wounds, Kurzweil’s slides actually looked interesting and not the usual death-by-bullet-point experience.

The one interesting point that did stand out from Kurzweil’s presentation for me was his take on Moore’s Law. In layman’s vernacular, Moore’s Law basically states that computing speed/power will continue to increase exponentially, roughly doubling every 2 years, with no bounds. And it is the “no bounds” part that Kurzweil made an interesting observation about (whether it his original viewpoint, or whether he is just the first I have heard it from I am not sure). He says that in fact Moore’s Law is bounded but only within discreet paradigms, and when the increases demanded by Moore’s Law begin to be harder to achieve, there is a natural paradigm shift that occurs. First it was from vacuum-tubes to transistors and then from transistors to integrated-circuits and so on. It is these paradigm shifts that have allowed Moore’s Law to hold true from the late 1950s when it was first defined until now, and it will be these kinds of paradigm shifts that allow the exponential increases in many aspects of technology to continue into the foreseeable future.

Kurzweil vacated the stage for Richard Pair, Chief Architect for Client Java at Oracle. Pair then stepped through a series of four demonstrations of work being done with Java client technologies outside of Oracle. The demos included

  • Gephi an open source thick client data visualization tool based on the Netbeans platform
  • The MLB Fantasy Baseball site, which uses a and Swing based front end to deliver a RIA interface to its users
  • The Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics data visualization tool developed by Effective UI that also uses JavaFX to deliver a RIA experience
  • Pulse, a telemedicine and mobile computing interface to allow doctors to asses patients in remote locations

Next on stage was Greg Bollella, Chief Architect for Embedded Java at Oracle. From the outset Bollella admitted that the 3 demonstrations he had to show had all been shown at JavaOne before, which is true, I personally had seen every one of them before. Bollella referred to them as “repeat offenders” and justified their repeat appearance by stating that they had each made advances since their last appearances, which was actually true. However it does make me wonder why in the preceding 18 months since the last JavaOne how has there not been a single new contender in the embedded space worthy of showing off? Is the JavaME market really this stagnant?

The embedded demos were:

  • The new Echo model smart pen from Livescribe, that runs a version of JavaME right on the pen itself. This was the standout demonstration of the whole Keynote as it wowed and delighted the audience, just as it had done the first time I saw the demonstration. I think this one might be on my Chrismas list this year
  • Perrone Robotics showed off their real-time Java usage in a automated toll-booth system that combined RFID, still camera and laser sensor input simultaneously to decide on the amount of toll to be charged
  • Volkswagen Electronics Research Lab once again showed off their autonomous vehicle project which uses real-time Java as part of the control system

Mercifully the Keynote ended almost exactly on time, a welcome change over previous years where the Toys Keynote notoriously ran long as Gosling got caught up in the gadgets he was demonstrating.

So some things about the last Keynote at JavaOne were quite a departure from previous years, and others stayed somewhat similar (in fact identical in the case of the embedded demonstrations). Obviously things were going to change, Oracle had to put their stamp on the proceedings. But I might suggest to Oracle that scheduling a big brain thinker like Kurzweil at 9am the morning after you had all of your attendees out on an island in the middle of San Francisco bay to well after midnight with an open bar, might not be the best plan for next year.

There IS going to be a next year, right?