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Simon Phipps

With a focus on open source and digital rights, Simon is a director of the UK's Open Rights Group and president of the Open Source Initiative. He is also managing director of UK consulting firm Meshed Insights Ltd.

Apple Tosses Java Off The Mac

The ripples of Oracle's takeover of Sun continue to rock boats, as Apple tigtens their proprietary grip on the Mac.

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Apple has finally lost patience with Java and tossed it from the Mac. It was already banned from the iPhone (presumably to make portability of apps to Android harder), but the OS X update that just happened is the last they'll bring out, and OS X Lion won't include Java support.

It's been an off-and-on relationship for quite some time, rescued by 1:1 contacts by Sun staff each time the end has been threatened. This has to be a big negative for all the many developers who prefer to use a Mac rather than Windows to develop their Java code. It looks like the future for Ubuntu as a developer desktop just got several degrees brighter...

Does Steve Jobs ignore the Ballmer Imperative at his peril? Many of us believe the medium-term future of the computer market is dictated by which platform today's developers prefer, and so many corporate developers work with Java in some form that making the Mac a Java-hater has surely to have an effect.

It's hard to see how this can be recovered unless Oracle can sweet-talk Apple the way Sun used to each time someone screwed up. Having Oracle take over the development would be hard for several reasons:

  • First, the Java port in use includes a lot of Apple know-how that is not generally available (such as private interfaces) to make Java integrate well rather than using just X11.
  • Second, it belongs to Apple, so Oracle would either have to receive a copy of Apple's implementation or start again with all the UI and platform native code.
  • Third, distribution would move outside Apple's update mechanism so keeping it patched and secure would be difficult - a new installer and update mechanism will be needed. If this doesn't happen, the security problems that Microsoft - who essentially caused the issue themselves - have started highlighting on Windows will show up on Mac too.
  • Fourth, the new AppStore rules will make sure there's negligible demand for consumer Java on the Mac.

It's possible that an open source implementation could step into the breach, but I still have my doubts. OpenJDK for example is actually developed largely by Oracle, and after that (a long way after) by Red Hat, so the community would need to magically gain some hard-core Mac experts.

I think this is actually bad news for everyone and that Apple's pursuit of platform control in this specific case harms their customer and their interests. 

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