RealTime IT News

New Standard Java Spec Emerges

In what is being called "the most significant enhancement to the Java platform," a consortium of Java-related companies launched the newest version of the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE).

As previously reported, version 5.0 of the specification -- also known as "Project Tiger" -- is the basis for developing portable applications for the server or desktop. The platform and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) are now available for download with 105 new features including generics, enumerated types, metadata and autoboxing of primitive types for easier and faster coding.

The update also supports C-style formatted input/output, variable arguments, concurrency utilities and a simpler RMI (Remote Method Invocation) interface generation, new JVM (Java Virtual Machine) monitoring, management API and a new (but compatible) default Java look.

Calvin Austin, the J2SE 5.0 spec leader, said his team is expecting almost immediate adoption of this version because of the overwhelming number of beta downloads. Over the course of both beta phases for the release, Sun Microsystems reported more than a half million downloads of the Java Runtime Environment and Software Development Kit (SDK).

"This is an illustration of how far a community can go when it works together," Calvin Austin, J2SE 5.0 spec lead and Sun senior engineer told internetnews.com. "Of the things that proved we were listening to the community is the start up time feature, which helps the desktop users and notification of low memory in the system, which was one of the biggest requests by server users."

In a conference call with reporters, the JCP said it is already working on J2SE v.6.0 or "Project Mustang." Graham Hamilton, vice president, Sun fellow and lead architect for J2SE 5.0 said the next release should come out in 2006.

"The plan is to continue with the early access drops. Developers really appreciated that they could get advanced parts of the code in the Tiger release," Hamilton said. "The theme for Mustang is pretty much the same as for Tiger -- quality, XML Web services."

The Java Community Process spearheaded the nine-year effort along with 160 expert members including 18 members on JSR 176 alone. The support list includes a Who's-Who of the Java world, including the Apache Software Foundation, Apple Computer, BEA Systems, Borland Software Corporation, Cisco Systems, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Macromedia, Nokia Corporation, Oracle, SAP AG, SAS Institute, SavaJe Technologies and host company Sun Microsystems.

Stephen O'Grady, a senior analyst with market research firm RedMonk, said Java-centric ISVs are likely to be excited about the platform improvements, but more important is that developers get excited.

"There are a lot of Java developers out there, and Tiger gives Java an opportunity to get many of them excited about the language again, particularly at the desktop level," O'Grady told internetnews.com.

To help foster that desktop development, the new spec features support for hardware acceleration via OpenGL for Linux and Solaris systems. Another key focus for the new platform release is that J2SE 5.0 applications can fit right into existing SNMP-based enterprise management systems. "The only thing administrators would need to recompile for is the language," Austin said.

"Of all of the potential improvements and upgrades that Tiger involves -- including an update to the Java language -- I think performance is the area most important to the release," O'Grady said. "Java's gotten heat for years on its relative performance, particular for the initial instantiation of an application, and this update is specifically designed to address that issue."

But O'Grady also points out that J2SE by itself is certainly an opportunity for Sun to further propagate Java into current as well as green field markets, but even on the client side its one asset amongst many, such as J2ME.

"Ultimately, Sun's futures in my view will likely be more influenced by the payoff from its disruptive pricing and packaging efforts with enterprise hardware and software," he said.