Is Java Dead on Mac OS X?

I was just reading a post on Fabrizio Giudici’s Blog and it really got me thinking about Apple’s commitment to Java on Mac OS X. As a Java developer who uses a MacBook as the platform of choice, I’m a very concerned about Apple’s recent announcement that Mac OS X 10.5 will be delayed until October. Four months is really not much of a delay, especially compared to the 5 years it took Microsoft to get Vista out the door. But the fact that Apple said that “we had to borrow some key software engineering and QA resources from our Mac OS X team” could make one question Apple’s commitment to the Mac. Also the fact that Apple has been extremely tight lipped about Leopard in general.

But what really gets me is Apple’s lack of information surrounding the state of Java on the platform. For starters, Java 5 on OS X is stuck at 1.5.0_07 while the rest of the world is using 1.5.0_11 or using the current release which is Java 6. There was a pre-release of Java 6 which was released back in September, but not an update since. Even worse, there’s been no mention from Apple as to what is going on in regard to Java on OS X. The sessions for the upcoming WWDC in June only has 2 sessions regarding Java. Additionally, Apple’s complete lack of involvement with the Java community is absolutely appalling, especially when you have some folks who are doing some great Java work on OS X.

What is incredibly frustrating is having to wait so painfully long to get the current release of Java on Mac OS X. Way back when OS X was first being released, Apple had made bold promises to Apple has been promising to narrow the gap in Java releases to 60-90 days after Sun’s final release” due in part to OS X’s UNIX under pinnings. So far, this couldn’t have been further from the truth. Java 1.4 was nearly a year behind Sun’s final release. Java 5 was also nearly a year behind and required an OS upgrade to boot. With Java 6, it appears that we’re in for a repeat of Tiger/Java 5 or we’re just not going to get a new version of Java. Or even better, we’ll get Leopard 4 month late and then have to another 3 to 9 months for Java 6 to arrive. And at that point, Java 7 will have entered beta. Maybe it’s time to start looking at OpenSUSE on my MacBook?

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    • Romain Guy

      I wouldn’t be that much worried. After all, the latest release offered by Apple is Java SE 6 1.6 b88, which is not that far behind Sun’s (Java SE 6 final was in the b10X range if I remember correctly.)

    • Chris Herron


      John O’Conner made similar comments on his blog before the Leopard delay announcement. Recycling my response to him: As far as Apple’s commitment to Java goes, keep in mind that Apple’s online store, .Mac and the iTunes music store all run on WebObjects (Java). Apple is currently hiring Java developers for these and other internal projects such as re-architecting the Apple Developer Connection using Java. Its obvious from the Leopard delay that there’s a resource crunch, and Java is just not high enough on the priority list.

      Now that Java has been open-sourced fully, I wonder if Apple would consider taking their Java source tree and opening it up like WebKit etc. at ?

    • Walt Chapman

      I am lucky to work on a team that develops Java desktop applications for multiple platforms, Linux, Windows and Mac. We have had some great ideas to leverage some of the Java2D enhancements in 1.6 for some of our soon to be released products. Unfortunately, Java 1.6 support on the Mac has turned out to be quite a frustrating ball and chain since our Mac developers are still using older but still fairly recent G5 based Power Mac hardware which performs miserably with Java 1.6 b88. I am one of the Linux developers and while I appreciate the awsome look and feel the Mac platform brings, you will never convince me to adpot a platform that so blatantly ignores supporting paying customers.