What the heck is a design summit?

I'm in the auditorium of Sun's campus in Santa Clara, California. Round tables are set up to seat 10 people for the 150+ of us in attendance. We're all here for the third annual Design Summit.

What is a design summit? This is the first one that I've attended, so I'm still finding out. In the abstract, the Design Summit is a 2-day conference to connect with our design colleagues from across the globe — we have attendees from India, Prague, Germany, UK, and all over the US. This year's theme is "Designing for the consumer in a technology-driven company".

So far, it's been fun and interactive; yesterday, we had a session on Second-Life, and we have a session today called "Slide-show karaoke", where I'll be one of a few people giving a talk using a slide deck that I've never seen before. In between, there have been lots of talks and presentations that are focused on the conference theme.

Yesterday's keynote talk was given by Curtis Sasaki, Vice President of Marketing, in charge of Sun's web properties. We heard talks on Sun Spots and Java FX Mobile user experience, and project Wonderland, which were given by the key employees driving those initiatives, and then a talk given by the VP of User Experience at Tivo. What each of these talks illustrated was a commitment to and a focus on the people who are on the other side of the screen: our users, our partners, our customers.

Today's talks focus on our external web presence, the design tools that we use, accessibility, and social networking. We're learning a lot from one another, and get to benefit from a couple of days of face-to-face contact that we very rarely get.

So maybe that's what a design summit is -- a chance to explore what's new with one another, and to renew our enthusiasm and energy for the work that we do for you ... the people who use our web pages, our operating systems, and our systems; the people whose user experience spans the investigation and ordering of our systems, to opening our boxes, and interacting with our call center. Those of you who blog about our software, who give it product ratings, and who contribute back to our open source projects.

We are excited to go back to our desks, to work with you and for you, to create more compelling and usable products that allow you what you need to do more easily.

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