Blog Post

Stale Java for the Mac Faithful

Stay on Top of Enterprise Technology Trends

Get updates impacting your industry from our GigaOm Research Community
Join the Community!

[qi:004] Apple’s Mac OS X Leopard, released last week, has over 300 new features. Too bad the latest Java SDK isn’t one of them. And the Java developers that use Mac OS are fuming.

They’re feeling slighted: In January, Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs told the New York Times that “Nobody uses Java anymore.” Fast-forward to the release of the new operating system — JDK 1.6 isn’t in there.

While Jobs might have been referring to the iPhone and its notoriously locked-down development environment, the developers may have a point. James Gosling, the creator of Java, suggests that Apple doesn’t view developers as their core demographic. That’s in pretty sharp contrast to Microsoft’s (MSFT) developer focus.

Mac releases of Java lag those for Linux and Windows, and release 1.6 speeds up applications considerably, something Java needs in its fight with Adobe (ADBE) and Microsoft. Apple teased Java developers at its worldwide development conference with details on how Leopard would work well with Java and the community got its hopes up.

Part of the problem is that Apple insists on developing the JDK for MacOS. But another part is the company’s attitude towards innovation: That’s Apple’s Job.

As a company that makes both the hardware and the operating system, Apple has imposed more restrictions and regulations on its products than other computer manufacturers.

It’s possible that giving developers tools and open access to platforms will further reduce Apple’s control over the desktop. But by limiting development tools Apple is playing a risky game that may send developers looking for more friendly development platforms.

10 Responses to “Stale Java for the Mac Faithful”

  1. @Erik

    Plenty of Java developers in the open source world develop on Mac. I much prefer to develop Java apps on OSX or Linux as do most Java developers I know. This is mainly because I can use any number of unix command line tools or shell scripts. In corporate environments we’re usually limited to Windows machines using cygwin which doesn’t quite cut it.

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to when you say “the philosophy of Java is extremely counter to what Apple stands for”. The Java community is largely built around open source products (including Java itself now) – similar for RoR. Can you elaborate on what Apple “stands for” ?

  2. I don’t quite get the “Developer’s Are Sprurned by Apple” argument. After all, Ruby on Rails was included in the release of Leopard.

    I think the reason why Apple is hating on Java is because the philosophy of Java is extremely counter to what Apple stands for. However, the philosophy of Rails lines up quite closely. I see no problem with Apple siding with philosophical allies.

    Plus, a vast majority of Rails developers use Macs. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Java programmer using a Mac.

  3. Michael Brian Bentley

    There are a number of things that aren’t quite right with Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), it isn’t surprising that Java 1.6 is one of them. I believe Apple is working to take care of a number of the details and get it all in working order.

    I have 10.5 on the internal drive and 10.4 on an external drive, and I’m using 10.4 right now. I need a couple more apps to work before I can retire 10.4.

    I think Leopard is an excellent new version of Mac OS X, with lots of emphasis on new. It’s a major revision. This is the first Monday after general release. Think: transition, not switch.

    There is always going to be a non-zero length transition period between major revisions for many if not most people who do nontrivial things with their computers.

  4. blasdelf

    It takes them awhile to release their JVMs because they’ve got quite a lot to do! Neither IBM, BEA, GNU Classpath, or Blackdown have released any JVMs supporting Java 1.6 either.

    Apple depends quite a bit on Java internally. Webobjects was rewritten in it years ago, and almost all of Apple’s website and iTMS backend is written in it.

    While their Java-Cocoa bridge is being frozen, they are not abandoning Java anytime soon, as quite a lot of their business depends on it!

    One note, they did stop including the JDK with the base OS, you now have to install the developer tools.

  5. Juan Carlos de Burbon

    Historically, developers have never been Apple’s core audience. Neither have the Apple Consultants nor Apple Certified Trainers. It’s actually a lot better than it was in the 1990s.

  6. Of course developers aren’t the core demographic. That’s almost preposterous — who could honestly believe that’s true or be disappointed that it weren’t? Apple is first and foremost in the business of making a consumer operating system, and they’ve got much more important things to be doing than catering to a singular segment of a relatively small portion of the market. I realize that developers constitute an enormous part of Apple’s loyal fanbase, but they are no more important than the rest of the Mac users.

    As for the “pattern of closed tools and limited systems,” do we really have that much to worry about? By my count, we’ve got the closed iPhone (which will be open in three months), and now no Java SDK (yet). What else is closed and limited? I’ll admit that Apple’s got a slight communication problem with developers, but that actually seems to be improving.

    Third-party applications are still thriving in OS X, and I don’t see that stopping any time soon.