The keynote was lackluster and the guests rather uninspiring. What was striking was the move away from bashing other companies by Sun execs. I remember previous years when jabs at Microsoft and fellow-Java-partner IBM were the standard fare. They were noticeably absent. Instead what was there was a more business-like approach - we are doing this and customers want interop etc. Sign of maturity? You bet. Loss of edginess? Perhaps. It is about time customers got that instead of good-for-nothing partisanship.
Graham Hamilton's talk thereafter (still in general session) was down-to-earth, free from posturing and overall great. You can count on him (and Gosling) to present something that everyone wants to hear. But it was interesting to hear almost an echo of what we hear nowadays on Microsoft campus - in Graham's words - theme #1 is "Compatibility, Stability, Quality!" If you add security to that, it would sound like the mantra on MS campus. Software engineers always want to innovate and correct past mistakes (whether there own or more commonly, somone else's :-) ). So it does take some drilling in. But yes, we all get it and I think the industry will be better off because of it.
In the technical session, there were a couple of noteworthy ones. One loftily titled "Enterprise Business Integration blah blah blah" which reminded me of the 7-layer ISO-OSI. You waste a couple of pages and a few seconds for unknown reasons and then move on to real things like TCP/IP. Hope that happens at this conference as well. I can't entirely blame the speakers since they have an essentially content-free topic with a bunch of block diagrams that even the most pedantic people might find boring. But still they could have searched for a case study (or not given the talk).
EJB 3.0 talk on the other hand was done very well. They had good stuff to present after years of churn and it was well presented. As an ex-ObjectSpaces team member, I always want to hear about persistence and how it integrates with other technologies in the middle tier and this talk did just that. I am tempted to write more here for comparison but I will resist the temptation until PDC (Sept. 12, 2005).
Overall there are more people here than last year but the goodies have gone down - cost cutting I guess. No water (bottles) outside the sessions - just fatty and salty snacks like chips. Very few swags at the booths. I am not a marketing guy but I always thought that small companies gain pretty good name recognition from cheap but interesting swags long after the conference - with exactly the people they want.