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Nowadays, never a dull moment in the Java world – Press Pass

I talk with the press frequently. They thankfully whack down my ramblings into concise quotes. For those who prefer to see more, I try to dump publish slightly polished up conversations I have with press into this new category of posts: Press Pass.

John K. Waters had several questions about the cracks du jour in the until recently sleepy and happy Java community:

What’s up with the JCP?

First, John asked about Doug Lea leaving the JCP, to which I replied:

I don’t know Doug Lea personally, or professionally really. While I haven’t spoken with Oracle on the topic, they do seem to be changing how the Java community is being run, making sure to control as much of it as possible. Really, I don’t know why we’d expect less: Sun tried to exert control (and in befuddling the ASF around TCK and “field of use” fine-print tactics acted like a pretty poor community overlord, despite the massive goodness that came from other efforts like OpenJDK), and Oracle spent a lot of money buying JAVA.

Oracle’s business model is to buy large, successful cash cows and milk revenue from them as much as possible, and what you’re seeing around their mum approach to the Java community aligns with that. More than likely, they’ll only get “involved” when the ROI can be quantified (a number that can put in a spreadsheet cell), not just when it’s a “good thing” or several steps removed from revenue generation. Sun’s business practices around open source were somewhat the opposite, which didn’t work out well for them in the long run at a corporate level. So you can imagine the new owner of JAVA feel justified in changing the way it operates.

What that means is that Oracle would (I’m guessing) like to see the Java community become more commercial, rather than “academic.” In contemporary standards bodies like the JCP, this means emphasizing the business value of a standard or effort, even at the Java SE level, meaning people like Doug Lea, as he explained very well in his letter, don’t really have a place in the JCP. It also means standards body knife-fighting and “back-room” politicking which is probably odious to most “open” minded people.

It’s like all those reality TV shows where everyone says one thing: “I’m here to win, not make friends.” Hopefully Oracle’ll listen to the gentle nudging in the community to win by making friends instead of ignoring them.

Apple Dumps Java

As of the release of Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3, the Java runtime ported by Apple and that ships with Mac OS X is deprecated. Developers should not rely on the Apple-supplied Java runtime being present in future versions of Mac OS X.

Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3 and 10.5 Update 8 Release Notes

John then asked about Apple’s decision to “deprecate” Java on OS X, that is, stop working on the Java runtime they’ve been delivering for years now.

Again, not having spoken with Apple on it, I just have pure speculation.

Apple has become the massively valued company it is by building a closed stack under its control. Consumers so far seem to love them for it. Java is outside of their control and consumes resources to get “perfect” enough to run on OS X.

The desktop hasn’t been a top strategy for Apple, iPods and then iPhones and now iPads being the chief strategy. But, with their new interest, it seems, in growing Mac desktop market-share and, more importantly, their ambitions to replication the iTunes App Store on the desktop, logic would dictate that Apple needs to lock down desktop development more. My theory is that Apple sees the Mac App Store as good bet for more revenues (more from selling more hardware than that cut of app sales, as with iOS devices), and wants to control as much of that stack as possible. Java is way out of their control, so under that strategy it’s got to go.

It’s also a wicked way to cause trouble to other ISVs. While Java on the desktop may not be used for a huge amount of desktop applications on OS X, it is used to back most of the development tools, esp. Eclipse. Developers have flocked to the Mac as a their primary computer and development machine. Without a good, frequently updated Java runtime on the Mac, all those developers will be in trouble. To play the grandpa role, back when I still wrote software, even when there was official Java support from Apple, the lagging release cycle meant Java developers on the Mac were always several months behind – it was crappy.

It’s not really that dire just yet, but it’s certainly annoying for developers and the companies putting out Java-based developer tools who’ll have to use other methods than the (now dead) “official” process for getting Java. It creates a great opportunity for someone to come in and play good cop to Apple’s jerk-move here, as strategic as it may be viz. the Mac App Store.

Disclosure: The Eclipse Foundation is a client, as is the Apache Software Foundation and other people who care about the Java world.

Categories: Community, Development Tools, Java, Open Source, Press Pass.

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Continuing the Discussion

  1. [...] I keep getting asked about the impact of Oracle’s Java and open source world moves on the state of things in those two spaces. You may recall a previous pass pass from John K. Waters seeking comment on Doug Lea departing the JCP. [...]