Briefly, in 50 minutes, this is what the 60 (out of 400 or so) people at the NetBeans session saw demonstrated yesterday: (1) creating a simple web application and deploying to Tomcat, (2) adding data from PointBase and deploying to SJS App Server, (3) consuming a web service in the JSP, (4) Ant and the IDE, (5) plug-in module for Wicket and plug-in module for Google toolbar (thanks Ludo!) and (6) NetBeans Platform. Obviously, with this agenda, there really wasn't much time to go into much detail. (In fact there wasn't even time for questions at the end.) Also, a couple of things went wrong, for no apparent reason—code completion for the URI attribute in the taglib directive failed but fortunately I knew what the URI was and the web service failed for no apparent reason and I ended up recreating it from scratch which cost me some time—but I think the point came across very clearly—productivity with NetBeans is very high. I think Ludo's google toolbar was the most impressive part of the presentation. Not only did they see how quickly and smoothly a plug-in module can be created, but they also saw (a) Matisse, (b) some really cool Source Editor features (hints, code completion, fix imports, reformat code, surround with try-catch), and the Update Center.
At the start of the session I asked about their level of experience. Of the 60, it seems that about 30 use NetBeans in their daily (or at least regular) development work, 20 had some basic experience with NetBeans but not much, while a few had never downloaded it, never looked at it, had no idea what it was all about. From discussions I had with people after the presentation, and also at the booth, it is clear that there are several people who are really active with NetBeans and very enthusiatic about it. I shared a booth with the Dutch Sun crew (who were great) and our goodies (thanks Rob!) were very popular. There were t-shirts, USB sticks, lanyards and CDs—by the end of the day they were all gone (and all for free). People were especially surprised about the USB sticks being free. ("Yes," I responded, "Just as free as NetBeans." "Free?" someone said, "Is NetBeans really free?", "Yes," I said, and so a discussion ensued, all thanks to the USB sticks...)
It was a bit difficult to divide my time between setting up my presentation, attending the other presentations (I was especially interested in Wicket, but unfortunately didn't get much chance to talk to Eelco, Martijn and Johan, which was one of the big disappointments of the day, but was difficult to avoid with so much going on), and spending time at the booth. And unfortunately I only had 5 NetBeans IDE Field Guides with me (I ended up giving one to a university lecturer who teaches Java with NetBeans, another to long-time NetBeans user and untiring doc reviewer Benny Vaessen, who I met for the first time after having e-mailed him since about July last year, another to fellow-blogger Wilfred Springer, from the Dutch Sun organization, who did a presentation on Jackpot, which ran parallel to my own, unfortunately, and the remaining two books I ended up giving to random people who asked about them).
I really enjoyed meeting Simon Ritter at dinner the evening before the conference. (By the way, Simon gets points for mentioning NetBeans during his keynote address on Sun SPOTS! We should do more cross-referencing like that!) Also, when returning to Amsterdam (no, the conference wasn't in Amsterdam, it was about two hours away from it) I traveled with Simon's Oracle counterpart, Duncan Mills. It was good chatting with him too. We were both really impressed by the thoroughness of the conference, the range of topics covered, and the number of technology organizations involved. By the way, it should be noted that the Dutch Java community is really vibrant, led by the super-organized, untiring, and ever-friendly Klaasjan Tukker, and there is a lot of enthusiasm for NetBeans.
In general, I was quite pleased with my presentation. A lot of 5.0 functionality was displayed (e.g., component palette, plug-in module development, multiple server support, JSF and Struts integration, surround with try-catch) and, even though a few things went wrong, the speed and complexity of development with NetBeans can only have been very clear. Pity there wasn't more time, though. A few of the Dutch Sun people mentioned the possibility of hosting a NetBeans Day—maybe together with Creator and other Sun products—I think that would be fantastic. I'd definitely be very enthusiastic in participating in that!