October 23, 2010

Java for Mac, not Oracle's business [UPDATED]

As many of you, I was surprised to read that Apple would be phasing out Java from Mac OS X and Steve Jobs is basically trying to push the responsibility over to Oracle. It didn't take long, but within hours message boards were filled with posts about this. The reason? Quite simple, many of those that buy a MacBook Pro, are Java Developers to begin with! They bought a Mac because they like the hardware, because they can get a good-looking UNIX operating system and at the same time not sacrifice the ability to use Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Office.

I myself am one of those Java Developers that bought a Mac for these precise reasons. If the guy at the Apple Store would have said "Sorry, no Java here", I would have turned around and left just to go to the Sony Center next door and buy one of those 13 inch Vaio's. And believe me, I am not the only one; I work as a consultant and have been in the business of making mission-critical and web-scale software development for around 10 years now, I know personally and by recognition literally hundreds of software engineers that, just like me, bought a Mac to pay their bills coding Java applications.

On top of this, one can't ignore the fact that Java Developers are some of the most open-minded software engineers out there. We like new frameworks, we like new languages (Scala, Groovy, et cetara) and we like to experiment. Me aside, I know enough Java Developers that learned Objective C and Xcode in their free time, just for fun... and because they were able to (after all, you already have a $2500 MacBook, why not install Xcode, too?)!

This may be my opinion, but Apple has become arrogant and disrespectful towards non-Apple-technology. This time, however, I can't stop to wonder if Apple expresses it's dislike towards the wrong crowd; iOS is fairly big now, but what if those "I pay my rent doing Java"-developers leave the Mac? There is no Xcode for Linux or Windows, you know... And let's face it: Very very few developers earn any money to speak of making Fart and Burp Apps for the iPhone or iPad. I guess Steve Jobs bets on having reached critical mass, but that remains to be seen (at least if nobody resolves the JDK issue anytime soon).

Steve recently commented on this by saying that he doesn't like playing catch-up with Oracle's Java and honestly, despite of all I wrote so far, I agree! I would appreciate it if Oracle provided a first-class JDK for Mac OS X just the same way they provide a first-class JDK for Windows, however, I do not think that it is Oracle's business; and why is not not Oracle's business? Because Oracle is in the business of providing software for the enterprise, they are not in the business of providing 250.000 tiny applications for iPhone owners... Not that there is anything wrong with it, Apple is doing very well by doing exactly that.

One might argue that Oracle already supports a competing operating system by providing a Windows JDK and that Oracle should show some goodwill throwing Mac OS X into the mix and yeah, it would be nice, but don't kid yourselves: Besides on the IT-staffs' desktops, Mac OS X is nowhere to be found in businesses. In ten years I have not seen a single server running any flavor of Mac OS. What I have seen is many Office Servers running Windows and thousands of machines running Solaris or Linux.

So, where does this leave us? For the time being we don't have any problem to speak of. Apple just released JDK 1.6.0_22, which will work just fine for a while. However, in less than a year Mac OS X Lion will be arriving and what if Apple really decides not to ship Java SE 7 on Mac OS X 10.7? Personally, I'd probably switch back to Ubuntu full time (tested 10.10 yesterday, it's really neat), but still: What's the purpose of owning an expensive MacBook Pro when I can't run Mac OS X?

Instead of just hoping and guessing we can take things in our own hands, after all, that's what Java developers are really good at. There is already a OpenJDK BSD Port Project in process and if Apple would be nice enough to contribute their source code to this project, I bet we will have a top notch OpenJDK for Mac OS X in time for Lion's release.

So, sign this petition and once I have collected enough signatures, I will submit it to Apple. Oh, and don't forget to tell your friends and colleagues about it.

--- UPDATE ---

I have been told by a fellow signer that PetitionSpot.com asks for donations when signing the petition. A donation given is nothing the petition starter (me in this case) receives, it is to support the operation of the website. Long story short, unless you want to support PetitionSpot.com, there is no need to donate. Neither I (or Apple/Oracle for that matter) will personally receive it.