JavaOne: IBM keeps low profile

Big Blue's presence diminished at this year's JavaOne

June 13, 2003 — Though Sun Microsystems' JavaOne developer conference is billed as an event for the entire Java community, the show this week in San Francisco is happening with a greatly diminished presence from one of Java's strongest supporters: IBM.

This year, IBM dropped its sponsorship of the show after last year being a platinum sponsor, which is the highest level available, and had a reduced presence on the show floor, where it demonstrated its Rational developer tools and Pervasive Computing offerings, but omitted its popular WebSphere product line.

IBM speakers also kept a small footprint at the event, appearing in none of the keynote addresses and in only about a dozen of the more than 400 technical sessions.

Big Blue didn't even get selected for the conference's annual hockey game. That honor went to Apple Computer this year.

"We are good customers of IBM, and you don't see IBM at any presentations," said Michael Frommeyer, a developer with Rechenzentrale Bayerischer Genossenchaften eG.

"I think their presence, or lack thereof, was noticeable," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst with RedMonk, who attended the show.

The company's diminished presence was, in part, a result of the consumer focus given to this year's show, said IBM Vice President of Emerging Internet Technologies Rod Smith. "It seems to be very client-oriented," he said, referring to JavaOne, "and that's interesting, but we think there's a lot that the enterprise customers want to be focused on from a server perspective."

IBM is in no way reducing its involvement in Java, Smith said. "We're not taking our eye off the ball, but there are areas where we don't think Java's appropriate," he said. Gaming was one such area, he said.

IBM's lack of participation in JavaOne does not signal a diminished level of participation in Java, said Jason Bloomberg, a senior analyst with ZapThink. "I wouldn't say that by any means they're distancing themselves from Java, but I would say they're distancing themselves from Sun," he said.

One of the reasons for this distancing, Bloomberg said, is that IBM and Sun share a different vision of Web services, which were promoted heavily in the show's sessions. "For Sun, Web services should be done in Java, and they talk about the 'one Java' world, where everybody has Java." IBM does not share the same Java-centric view of Web services, he said.

"They are looking to drive their efforts with Java more independently from Sun, and JavaOne is a Sun event," Bloomberg said.

Abdin Tarkmani, an independent IT consultant attending the show, agreed. "They're trying to shift attention to their own conference," he said, referring to IBM's own developerWorks conference.

Robert McMillan is a San Francisco-based correspondent for the IDG News Service, a JavaWorld affiliate.

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