How did we end up here?
Before discussing Canoo’s attendance at MWC 2009, it’s worth reflecting what brought us here. The story arguably began at Canoo’s Code Camp 2007, where one of the teams thought they’d try out something called “JavaFX”. At that time an early version of JavaFX had just made its debut at JavaOne ’07 and the guys were keen to take the technology for a test-drive. And voilà… MusicPinboard was born. Little did we know at the time that the resulting, appealing little application would result in Sun Microsystems contacting Canoo in October 2008 to ask if we’d like to participate in the “November” launch of the first official version of JavaFX. A rewrite of the app ensued (because official JavaFX differed significantly the ’07 version in a number of respects) and the launch took place slightly later than originally scheduled, in December, at an invitation-only event in sunny San Francisco. The application demo’d by Canoo at this event struck a chord with the attendees and Canoo was subsequently invited to create a mobile version of MusicPinboard to coincide with the launch of a mobile version of JavaFX.
About the MWC
The Mobile World Congress is the biggest of its kind, featuring a four-day exhibition of over 1200 world-class firms, as well as technical sessions and keynotes from CEOs of Microsoft, Vodafone, Nokia, to name but a few.
It is therefore significant that Sun should choose this particular venue to launch its mobile variant of the JavaFX, entitled – logically enough – JavaFX Mobile. Equally significant was the presence of Sun top-executives, such as Messrs. Eric Klein and Param Sing – VP and Senor Director of Java Marketing respectively, as well as Executive Vice President of Application Platform Software Anil Gadre. Also at the Sun booth: Canoo senior developers Mike Mannion and Alberto Mijares.
On Display at the the Sun Booth
Naturally enough, all of the technologies on show at the Sun booth related to mobile technology in some way or another.
For example, there was a demo of the Glassfish Mobility Platform, which, by means of a connector architecture, enables the enterprise to sync mobile devices with potentially any enterprise application. Sun streaming TV technology was also on display as was LWUIT (Lightweight UI Toolkit) – a UI toolkit library for Java ME. But there can be no doubt that most of the booth’s emphasis was on JavaFX and JavaFX Mobile, with a range of hands-on demos on show. These included:
- A mock security video monitoring system, which constantly looped through a scenario in which a bunch of crooks attempt a break-in at the Sun site. This demo was so impressive, in fact, that a number of people came to the stand to ask when the “security product” would be available!
- A very attractive mock social networking app for sharing restaurant and location information with buddies;
- A cute game involving bunnies, which we presume was designed to suggest that JavaFX is suitable as gaming platform;
- Canoo’s MusicPinboard application in both desktop and mobile forms, which Mike and Alberto used to describe the use of JavaFX tools Production Suite and NetBeans 6.5
On show: MusicPinboard Mobile
As previously announced Canoo was in attendance to demonstrate its recently created MusicPinboard Mobile application – an application created using the first official version of JavaFX Mobile. Around forty detailed demonstrations were given over the four-day period. In addition and in response to the questions from the attendees, Mike and Alberto also talked in detail about how the application was realised using the JavaFX Production Suite tools and the JavaFX plug-ins for the NetBeans IDE.
Here is the application running from within the NetBeans IDE:
The technical challenges encountered during the development were also freely discussed on the Sun stand, as were issues with the current version of the runtime, which sits atop Java ME on the hardware.
Here is the application running on Sony-Ericsson’s high-end Xperia device:
Most Frequently Asked Questions (and who was asking them)
Without a doubt, the most frequently asked questions were the following:
- What is JavaFX?
- What is the difference between JavaFX and JavaFX Mobile?
- Concerning JavaFX development: What kinds of tools are available today and what is the quality of these tools?
- When will JavaFX Mobile be deployed to commercially available devices in the way that Java ME is today?
- How well does the JavaFX Mobile Runtime perform and what is its footprint?
We (Canoo) will not attempt to answer these questions in this post, but will address them over the coming weeks and months as yet more experience is gathered and whilst Sun continues to actively improve the platform.
As for who was asking these questions: The vast majority of the people who witnessed our demonstration were clearly strategic decision makers in the CEO/CTO bracket. Some folks came from research departments and even some software developers (people like us!) made it to Barcelona too.
Independent Opinion on the Stand Greatly Appreciated
When Mike Mannion delivered an (arguably) sobering evaluation of the state of JavaFX in a talk at JavaOne in 2008, the last thing he expected was for Sun to give him a call and request a repeat performance. Yet Sun DID call him and he DID give his talk a second time (clearly because, even at that time, there were also many positive things to say about JavaFX in addition to the negative.)
Now, when Sun is officially launching JavaFX / Mobile, why would Sun be giving an opportunity to independent third parties to express freely their opinion about a brand-new (read: immature) technology? It comes down to this: Sun receives constructive feedback, reenforces its credibility with potential users of the technology and, at the same time, demonstrates its confidence in the technology’s future. It is therefore perhaps surprising that not more organisations take this open and enlightened approach.
We can testify first hand that Sun is a company that embraces open discussion – not just open source – and (constructive) criticism of its technologies. The response from the public made it perfectly clear that this is a win for all parties; in particular, potential client get an unabridged opinion, whilst Sun reenforces its credibility. And Canoo? Canoo looks good too 😉