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.


Rob Warner said...

I signed the petition. Apple shouldn't be getting out of the JDK business until they have someone to transition it to, and your point that it's about all JVM languages, not just Java, is well made. Jobs should be building bridges to developers, not alienating them; i blogged about it here: http://www.grailbox.com/2010/10/from-one-steve-to-another-its-about-the-developers/

Rick said...

I think you have a good idea here, Daniel, but I suspect it will take clear support of BOTH Apple and Oracle for this to happen. Apple would obviously have to provide their intellectual property, but Oracle would have to release Apple from various confidentiality and indemnification obligations that Java licensees are required to agree to.

It seems highly unlikely that Apple will allow itself to be forced into any reversal in this situation, but they may be persuaded to cooperate in handing the baton to others so their platform continues to be well-supported.

Thanks for making your petition, and I hope that the various power-that-be will listen.

Rick Ross

Alan said...

I think me and you like Mac OS X for the very same reason - I posted something similar to my blog the other day.

At the same time I fear Oracle has something to do with Apple's decision, it's not just a matter of support.

nickd said...

It is a very small world if you paint the makeup of the majority of offices as having exclusively only non-mac computers.

I have worked in NYC for over a decade and have exclusively seen in each programming project I have worked on at all the top firms and business offices having a primary setup of Macs for almost everyone and media served within the office using the Mac media network services and hardware/server support.

You cannot support your limited view of Apple by saying you have only seen such and such type of machine or OS in your offices when one in a different city might see quite the opposite.

I agree Java is a big piece of the OS X world and this recent hullabaloo over the one notification of the support change for Java doesn't seem to warrant a call to switch away from Mac or cause a stink. For all we know there hasn't been enough cause to keep supporting it beyond 6.2 and we all agree we don't see the business reason behind it yet.

Anonymous said...

You paid $2500 for a laptop?? Sucked in bad eh. I paid $700 for a really neat Acer with Windows7, wide screen, 4GB RAM and 500GB hard drive.
Needless to say the latest Java is not an issue :-D

Christian said...

Why don't you just install VMWare?


Run any other OS within your mac.

Anonymous said...

My x84 Laptop cost $700 with OpenSuse installed on it with all developing tools I could ever ask for. You buy apple you pay for vanity an yet they still treat you like you don't matter. Most Mac owner bought it because they did not like Microsoft cash first mentality. Yet very few have noticed that Apple has been the new Microsoft for a while now. Just do not buy restrictives technologies in the end you will always loose out. The more grip they get the worse it is for the industry.

Anonymous said...

I suspect there is more going on here than is public knowledge. With so many Java applications out there I do not see Apple trying to kill Java for Mac off. It does not make business sense.

I suspect the JVM for Apple torch is intentionally being passed from Apple to Oracle with both Apple and Oracle by in.

There are many business reasons that could have spurred this on. Maybe Apple is happy to let Oracle handle this where they were not happy with Sun in the past? Maybe this is all due to licensing?

In any event I'm sure enough details will be public for everyone to be happy and working soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Please, can we stick to the subject and not discuss whether or not Apple hardware is worth its price tag? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think it is relevant.. I mean you could sell a $2500 mac book to another sucker for about $1500, and get a good Windows or Ubuntu laptop for $800. And you will have the latest Java tools, plus $700 cash in hand!

Daniel Pfeifer said...

@nickd: I am aware that Macs have a higher representation in some areas (mostly in large cities with a fashion-concious population), but as I wrote, you are hard pressed to find companies (besides perhaps Apple) that run Mac OS X to drive mission critical applications.

@Christian: Running VMWare is not really an option. Before I do that, I'll install Windows or Ubuntu on my machine.

@Anonymous #1: Yes, your laptop is $700, but is it as robust as a MacBook Pro? I can honestly said that I never had a problem with any of my MacBook Pros, but I had countless problems with Lenovo, Acer and Asus machines I owned before that.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the decision has to do with Oracle's lawsuit against Google. Since this is Apple's own JVM would they be found to be at fault too, unless they pay Oracle licensing?

I suspect there's something more going on other than Steve Job's megalomania.

Anonymous said...

>I had countless problems with Lenovo, Acer and Asus machines I owned before that.
Well I have a choice of building one myself and has worked better than a branded one for years.
And yes, it costs $700. And no, I don't have to deal with proprietary hardware & software :).

Anonymous said...

@Christian - you shouldn't need to install vmware. Remember the Java selling point - write once, run anywhere?

Anonymous said...

I bought a mac because a comparable generic pc would have been £200 less, in a rubbish box, noisy and I'd have to have either MS or Linux on it. And for those that find the price comparison without credit, a comparable screen would have been £850 - over half the cost of the components.. It's like comparing a trabant with a rolls royce, sure you get there at the same time but I'm paying for how you get there :-) and that matters too.

Andy said...

I see the end of using Eclipse on Macs and our developers moving away from Macs for Good. This means there will be fewer people testing advanced web applications on Macs, thus making Macs second class citizens. It won't take long before web applications will be optimized for Windows only with no support for Macs. This will be the death of Macs in the enterprise.