Neil McAllister over at InfoWorld has what starts like a doom and gloom piece on the demise of Java. Having seen this kind of sensationalist drivel too often I was inclined to ignore it (and the ensuing thread on /.). I’m glad I didn’t i – Neil makes some good points and presents them well. The piece rises well above the typical sensationalist rants we’re all used to.
“I wouldn’t be the first to argue that Sun missed the boat by not releasing Java under an open source license sooner. As Apache Project co-founder Brian Behlendorf said in 2006, “I think had they done it, they would have established Java further as the language of choice by so many more people.”
From my very, very minor involvement with the IcedTea project and since joining Red Hat just a few months ago I’ve seen a very different attitude towards Java. I was previously of the opinion (bear in mind I worked for Sun for almost 9 years) that Java was already essentially free and open enough – and that actually making it Open Source wouldn’t really change anything. Java had already become incredibly popular without the advantages of Open Source. But I now think Java did miss a huge opportunity by not being part of the major upstream Linux ecosystems – such Fedora and Debian.
So it almost certainly would have made a big difference 3 or 4 years ago; the question is – will it make a difference now. I’m optimistic – but admittedly slightly biased having invested a large part of the last decade in promoting Java in one way or another. Here’s why I’m optimistic.
- Java is still young – I still talk to customers who are only just contemplating moving to Java; and I’m still pretty confident that the majority of Java developers are only now working their way through school and college.
- The only real, mainstream alternative to Java is Microsoft’s .NET platform. And the future of that is somewhat predicated on the success of Vista and Vista isn’t looking too hot right now. OK, Ruby, PHP, Scala, Python all have their place – but they are just languages and don’t really complete with the Java platform.
- There’s a real opportunity for one of the Linux distros. to become *the* Java developer OS – right now I would guesss that Windows XP and OS/X account for most Java developers desktops – that just seems completely wrong to me given Microsoft’s and Apple’s disdain of Java.
I feel pretty encouraged by the reaction to our announcement last week and I wouldn’t be surprised if the next wave of innovation in Java came from the new communities who can now adopt it. I for one would love to see one of the major Linux distros like Fedora step up and become the developer OS for Java – and when I say Java; I don’t just mean the language – I mean the entire Java ecosystem.