The CTO of a big media company presented me with a challenge recently, which gave new meaning to the word “convergence.” I thought I’d use his story to put into context what Sun announced today at JavaOne (what’s become the world’s largest open source developer conference).
First, his business model: his employer was paid every time an item in their content library (say, a new first run movie) was displayed to a user. Independent of whether the user viewed the content on a satellite network, a cable set top box, via DSL on a home PC, through an in-car navigation system or airline seatback (you get the drift, the network is the movie theater). He wanted to reach as many consumers as possible, wherever and whenever he could.
That said, for every movie he added to his library, he had to encode the file into a dizzying array of file formats. Some 20 or 30 if he wanted to reach all his audiences – across PCs, phones, set tops, game machines, etc. The format proliferation was costing him a fortune in storage, and the complexity and expense of encoding and decoding the various media streams was driving his computing purchases at an incredible clip. 1,000,000’s of subscribers, 10,000’s of titles and 100’s of devices and file formats – the multi-dimensional matrix was exploding, yet, as he pointed out, delivered no real value to his customers. Customers don’t care about movie formats, they care about movies.
Reciprocally, advertisers don’t care, either – they care about reaching consumers, not devices.
And if you wanted to know my three sentence summary of the global battle, the battle to reach consumers that fed this challenge and spawned the focus behind what we’re announcing today at JavaOne, it’s this:
1. Businesses want direct relationships with their consumers – the internet provides access and opportunity.
Whether you’re a media company showing a movie, a car company running an ad, a global telco or a startup presenting a new network service – the internet has become an obvious vehicle to engage consumers. And not just on PC’s – looked at globally, phones matter more in this debate than PC’s. Why? Because most of the world already experiences the internet through a phone. Today. And may never own a traditional PC.
2. Technology companies enable the devices through which enterprises connect with consumers.
These companes come in two basic forms: consumer electronics companies, building phones and set tops and nav systems and PCs – frustrated by the format wars described above; and more valuably (at least to Wall Street), a small number of technology and service companies aggregating consumers in front of those devices.
3. The largest and most powerful technology companies are using their products and services to disintermediate businesses that want direct relationships with consumers.
And therein lies a market opportunity for one of these:
What is it?
It’s a phone running Sun’s new JavaFX Mobile software, a member of the JavaFX product family we announced this morning.
What’s JavaFX? It’s a software product from Sun that allows any consumer electronics manufacturer to accelerate the delivery of Java/Linux based devices, from phones to set tops and dashboards and everything else imaginable. Without fear of format lock-in or disintermediation from a competitor. JavaFX is a product (not simply a technology), built on Java Standard Edition (the Java platform running on your desktop computer), that unites billions of Java SE and Java Micro Edition devices (Java Micro Edition is what runs on most of the world’s mobile handsets).
JavaFX provides a complete and fully open source platform for device manufacturers, content owners and service operators wanting to reach consumers with interactive content – and control their own destiny.
In the eyes of the consumer, devices are converging – where you want to watch a movie, play a game or connect with friends – or where an advertiser seeks to reach you – presents a less interesting question, today, than when. You can watch a movie in your living room, on a big flat panel display. But when you leave for work, you’d prefer to use your mobile to watch the last 15 minutes on the subway. On the way to work, an advertiser might want to reach you on a billboard or taxitop, or insert an ad into the video stream you’re watching. And once at work, you might want to join a fan network or write a review (on your lunch break, of course). Consumers (like advertisers and operators) want the experience to be simple, secure and coherent. And device independent.
Sound familiar? It is – this was the original vision behind the Java platform – Write Once, Run Anywhere. For software. And with the convergence of media and application formats, and the rise of open source software (think about it – Linux and OpenSolaris are the ultimate in user generated content), the market seems ready. We can deliver a complete product, OS and all, that eliminates the risk of fragmentation among network clients, accelerates the availability of Java/Linux devices, fuels the free and open source developer community – and already has the mass and momentum to reach the global consumer.
JavaFX radically lowers the bar to building a Java technology enabled device – and radically lessens the expense and complexity of reaching consumers. Backed by a company with no agenda to disintermediate content owners, and every interest in propelling the open source community (every portion of the content Sun contributes to the JavaFX product and community will be via the GPL license, at the core of Java and GNU/Linux).
But that’s not all we announced. Although the Java platform has been technically effective over the past decade, in opening markets and creating value, it’s been the province of… well, folks who could sling Java code. Highly technical individuals who saw themselves as software developers – not web authors or creative professionals. And that changed, today, too.
You can get more detail here, but the focal point of JavaFX Script isn’t simply to enhance the Java platform – it’s to amplify Java’s role on the consumer internet, unify content and devices, and extend the reach and value of the billions of existing Java runtimes in the marketplace. All of which will be JavaFX Script enabled. The intent is simple: to stake the Java community’s natural claim to lead the debate surrounding rich internet applications at the heart of Web 2.0.
With the rise of JavaFX, JavaFX Script, JavaDB, Glassfish and NetBeans – there should be no doubt where we’re headed with Java. Everywhere.
Or when we’re heading there.