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Robert Brewin, CTO, Sun

Robert BrewinThe 2007 JavaOne conference was Sun's most ambitious in years, in addition to its best-attended since the dot-com implosion earlier this decade. Doing demonstrations with pre-beta code caused a few implosions onstage during demos, but the audience understood what Sun was trying to do.

The company introduced Java 12 years ago with the promise of "write once, run everywhere." With JavaFx, it finally means it. It will deliver the same experience on a desktop, set-top device or mobile phone, and the code is portable across all platforms.

So Sun claims. caught up with Robert Brewin, the CTO of Sun's software division. Could there be a more appropriate surname for a Java technologist? He took some time to discuss Sun's future plans and ambition regarding Java.

Q: I've noticed at the demos this year that these are probably the most ambitious uses of client ever. Java has always been about little applets. Now you're doing Open GL and World Wind demos. You're really pushing the limits, aren't you?

Absolutely. That's highly intentional, and that's really where the future is. The analogy I like to use, which may be impersonal, is historically we have the dog wagging the tail. In other words, the enterprise providing what it thinks the consumer wants and the consumer can deal with it. A lot of effort went into hardening and bullet-proofing Java to make sure it performed extremely well.

With the advent of Web 2.0 and participation on the Internet through a variety of devices, it's flipped around. Now it's the client, the consumer, the person using those devices wagging the dog, if you will. So the emphasis and initiatives should be on the client.

A lot of what you're seeing on the demos are largely around how can we do things like improve the user experience. The one demo I would have loved to show onstage if I'd had 10 more minutes would be to take that World Wind app, embedded it on the phone and tie it to a GPS system. Imagine what you could do with that. Real-time GPS tied with satellite imagery on a cell phone. That's just phenomenal.

The notion that I was trying to imply was the Glassfish stuff, which is this understanding that you are not tied to the network all the time. When you are not on the network, you should be able to function. I should be able to update my calendar; I should be able to look up addresses, edit checklist entries; and when I'm back on the network, that stuff just syncs up. That requires a richer client that has persistence, that has an execution environment, and that can't be just JavaScript.

Q: On that note, it reminds me of my JavaFX briefing with Executive Vice President of software Rich Green. The takeaway was JavaFX would allow you to run Web-based apps offline. He said that's the whole point.

That's the whole point, exactly. And from the JavaFX script side, we want to make it as easy as possible for people to build those apps and build them against a common set of APIs and build them 10 times as fast as they could before. And take those apps with them to different devices without having to worry about porting. That's the focus.

Q: I'm hearing the phrase "write once, run anywhere." Wasn't that the promise of 1995?

That was the promise of 1995.

Q: What happened?

Well, I think we took a turn. We took a turn for the right reason at the time, but this notion of creating profiles in the Java ME space fragmented that platform, and created a series of APIs and runtimes that weren't consistent across multiple devices.

Moving an app from one phone to another implied essentially a port. So the whole "write once, run anywhere" notion applied to the desktop space. It applied to the enterprise space. But it didn't apply to the mobile space.

The most amazing opportunities are in that space, whether it's TV, cell phone, satellite navigation, and so on. If you don't achieve that write once, run everywhere there, I think that we're giving away a huge potential market. That's a huge sort of sea change and shift toward writing in that manner.

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