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Java Developers Bemoan Apple Support

For all of the success it has been enjoying, Apple seems to be on a mission to alienate more and more of its supporters.

iPhone early adopters are still in a huff over the price cut that came so soon after its launch; NBC dumped iTunes altogether; and the music industry has openly complained about iTunes pricing.

Now Java programmers are up in arms over the release last week of Mac OS X 10.5, or Leopard. Some say this is the last straw. Apple shipped Leopard with an old version of the Java Virtual Machine, and a beta version of Java SE 6 was recently pulled from the Apple developer site with no explanation.

This prompted a blow-up on the Javalobby Web site from one developer in a lengthy editorial titled "So Long Apple. The Party's Over." In the editorial, programmer Mike Urban took the company to task for its history of poor Java support and its failure to engage the community.

"There has always been two problems with Java on OS X: They are always falling significantly behind, never had a current version, and their total lack of communication," Urban told InternetNews.com. "It's not just with Java they do this. Apple tends to keep people in the dark a lot about what is going on."

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

He admits most Mac users probably are not affected, but adds that his company is based on Java, so Apple's ambivalence is having a negative impact on at least one customer. Programmers responding to his post on Javalobby seem to indicate that, at least among Java programmers, there is some agreement with his sentiment.

However, Mike Gualtieri, senior analyst in the application development and program management group at Forrester Research, thinks Apple did the calculus and doesn't think it's losing much. "If they were saying internally 'We can delay the release of Leopard to get Java 6 in or release it,' they will say 'release it,'" he said. "The reality is they aren't in the enterprise and the mass market doesn't need it."

Sun Microsystems, not wanting any part of this brouhaha, would only state for the record that the Mac OS port of Java is Apple's responsibility, one the company asked to take on. However, there were hints of problems earlier this month in James Gosling's blog, when he talked of switching from a MacBook to a Solaris laptop.

One reason he cited for the change was the state of the Mac JDK. "Apple's JDK support is a part of my problem, and yes, I have their JDK6 from the ADC [the Apple Developer Conference]," wrote the creator of Java. "I've met the folks on the JDK team and they're trying real hard. It's hard to tell what the fundamental issue is, but it keeps feeling like the big problem is that developers aren't the 'target demographic.'"

Urban said it would be possible for third parties to do a Mac OS port on their own now that Java is open source, but it would be a headache. "Nothing stopping someone from doing the port, you could do it, but it would be a lot of work because Apple has done so many changes to make it integrate with its desktop," Urban said. "It would be a lot of work."

Gualtieri thinks that Sun blew it with the resource-heavy Java applets—opening the door for Flash—and Java is out of favor with Web developers. "On the Mac, developers who want to create really rich Internet apps use HTML with AJAX or Flash, or they can use Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly or Google Mashup Editor. There are all kinds of ways to build Web apps that don't require Java," he said.