One of the great things about my job is that I get to go speak to customers and other groups of Java developers. Even more amazing than the fact that Sun pays me to do this is that people actually show up to listen to me. I'm sure you've all had those times where you feel like you are still the dumb kid who just graduated and somehow you have to make everyone around you think you actually know what you are talking about. While I know that I'm a Java expert and have interesting things to say, a little part of me is still scared. What if I say the wrong thing? What if someone asks me a question that I can't answer. What if I walk into a room full of SWT lovers?! The agony!

No one? Hmmm. Maybe it's just me. :)

Anyway, last week Richard Bair and I drove down for a cheap, whirlwind tour of LA to visit five customer sites and two Java Users Groups. I am pleased to say that our trip went very well. We had an engaging and exhausting week meeting with some great Java developers, dispelling myths and out of date information about desktop Java, and seeing how people use desktop Java in the real world.

I won't go over every stop we made, but I will cover the highlights and lessons we learned.

  • Our presentation got better as we went along. This is no surprise of course, but interesting. Our last presentation of the week: to the OC JUG, was much better than our first: to the LA JUG. After giving it seven times we knew the material, knew what to focus on, and most importantly knew what to skip over.
  • Java 5 adoption is going great! When I spoke at the LA JUG a year ago I saw about 25% using Java 5 and 75% using 1.4. Last week the numbers were reversed.
  • A lot of people don't know about Java Web Start. This surprised me because I've known about it for years (and written several different articles on it), but at most sites the developers didn't know about Webstart or only heard a few details. Clearly we need to do more to get the word out.
  • Developers who use WebStart love it. At one customer site, where they use 1.5 and WebStart for everything on the desktop they said "Java Webstart has been a huge win for us". The developers are in LA and the customers are in New York. They can fix a bug in the afternoon, push out a new version that evening, then the customers are updated the next morning. That's what we like to hear!
  • Most people don't know about Matisse for Netbeans 5.x. A lot of developers had tried Netbeans in the 3.x series and never touched it again. We demoed Matisse running in Netbeans 5.0 and really turned some heads. I think we are making headway.
  • Developers want two way editing of GUI code. Matisse, like every successful GUI builder I have ever seen, saves the UI definition to a non-editible store of some kind. Several developers asked about two way editing of existing code. This is a question for you guys: is two way editing really what you need, or would a standard, cross-tool, XML format address your concerns?
  • Trusted Solaris is cool! I've never heard of this product, but apparently we (Sun) make a version of Solaris that is very secure and can isolate applications from each other based on their security level. You could have one window that is classified as Secret and another as Top Secret. It can even manage what you type and copy to ensure you don't accidentally give out classified information (assuming I understand how this works). Obviously this is not something most people need, but if you need then it you really need it, and we make it.
  • Everyone loves Aerith. Aerith is probably the best demo we've ever done. Everyone we show it to loves it and wants to learn more about how to do these types of tricks. It's really turned a lot of heads.
  • I need to learn Flex. On several occasions someone mentioned Flash/Flex. We have a lot to learn from them.
  • Swing is making headway. The speed, look and feel fidelity, and feature improvements (like SwingWorker) in Swing are being noticed. We don't see SWT making the inroads that it was a couple of years ago. This is a sign that we are doing the right things.
  • We should do more road trips. It's exhausting but rewarding work. I wish we could take more trips like this to meet with developers in the real world. But then we'd never get any real work done. Always a balance, it is.

So I'd say the trip was successful. We received lots of great feedback and made people excited about desktop Java, Netbeans, and Java 6. So where should we go next?

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Posted September 17th, 2006