Yesterday, I talked about what we might be able to infer from Apple’s decision to deprecate Java and prohibit Java applications from the Mac App Store in terms of the future of the Mac as an open platform. Today, I want to round up some links about the future of the Mac as a Java development platform and as a platform for developers.
Nobody is exactly sure what to make of the deprecation of Apple’s port of the Java Development Kit for the Mac, but a lot of people are rather stressed about it, as you can see from several threads at Hacker News. I am a Java developer and I do all of my work on a Mac. Losing the ability to continue to work in this manner would be a hit to my productivity.
First, Apple announced that the version of the JDK that they maintain is deprecated. A Java developer who is a Mac user emailed Steve Jobs what Apple’s future plans are for Java on OS X. Jobs responded that Oracle maintains the Java released for other platforms, that Apple’s Java release is always behind the latest Oracle (formerly Sun) release, and that keeping Java up to date for OS X is their job. Java creator James Gosling takes issue with Jobs on a number of points, noting that many companies do maintain Java for their platforms, and that Apple in the past chose to maintain the port for a variety of reasons. Former Sun open source evangelist Simon Phipps explains why it would be difficult for Oracle to take over maintenance of the OS X JDK.
Matt Drance says this is the end of Java as a development platform for Macs. The one community that really cares about this is Java developers who use Macs. Here’s his prognosis:
A lot of Java professionals use Macs for development, even if they deploy somewhere else. What will they do? If they’re using Eclipse, I think they’ll be OK. It shouldn’t take long to shim SWT on top of an OpenJDK port, and IBM has shown a lot of initiative over the years. Other “pure Java” IDEs, like JetBrains’ (superior, in my opinion) IDEA, depend on a working AWT, and therefore have some more thinking to do.
And finally, Tim Bray, on Twitter:
Unclench, everyone. There are millions of Java devs, all their tools are in Java, they like Macs, one way or another it’ll be there.
I don’t know what the future of Java on the Mac is, but I think it’s foolish for Apple to turn its back on hosting development environments that they don’t fully control. One of the factors that brought Apple back into relevance as a computer maker was the fact that Apple provided a friendly version of Unix that Web developers could use to get their work done. A few years ago switching from Windows to Mac became a no brainer if you were developing apps that would eventually be deployed on Unix servers. That led to a lot of Macs being sold, not only to those developers but also to the people those developers influence.
Furthermore, I believe that the presence of Macs on the desks of millions of software developers who were doing Java work, or PHP work, or Ruby on Rails work contributed in a big way to the growth of iPhone development. There are huge advantages associated with being the platform of choice for developers. Apple should be very careful before it fritters away those advantages.