Oracle: Don't count out Java in the mobile space

Company officials also eye long-term releases of standard, enterprise Java variants

Java may seem like it is off the radar screen these days when it comes to smartphones and tablets, with platforms such as Apple's iOS and Google's Android clearly dominating the headlines. But don't count Java out on newfangled small form-factor devices, an Oracle official said.

The company, which took over stewardship of Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems early last year, is readying improvements to Java Platform Micro Edition (Java ME), the version of Java built for devices, said Adam Messinger, Oracle's vice president of development for Fusion Middleware, at the Server Side Java Symposium in Las Vegas. He and Oracle's Steve Harris, senior vice president of application server development, also discussed plans for the standard and enterprise editions of Java, including ideas for versions still years away.

[ At the Java Symposium, Java founder James Gosling cited Oracle's self-interest in maintaining Java. | Keep up on Java technology with the JavaWorld Enterprise Java newsletter. ]

Java ME "far from dead"

In the mobile space, Java ME is "far from dead," Messinger said. "There are 3 billion devices that run it," he said. New devices using it are shipped at a "tremendous rate," he said. RIM's BlackBerry smartphones use Java ME, he noted, though they run the BlackBerry OS for their smartphone capabilities. Oracle also has had recent discussions about Java appearing on tablet devices, he said. Messinger referred to Oracle's lawsuit over Android as affecting Java device development, although he would not elaborate. That lawsuit, ironically, alleges that Android violates Java patents. "Everyone knows about our legal entanglements with Android," he remarked.

Java ME, Messinger said, "didn't get advanced under Sun for quite some time." Oracle is ready to change that. Plans are afoot to introduce Java Specification Requests, which are formal amendments to official Java technology platforms, to improve Java ME application development via capabilities such as annotations, for metadata, and library changes. These improvements put "more power in the hands of developers," Messinger commented. Oracle, he added, intends to modernize Java ME via features harvested from Java Platform, Standard Edition (SE) 6.

Java EE 7 coming this summer

For the enterprise version of Java, officially known as Java Platform, Enterprise Edition (Java EE), Java EE 7 is due out by the end of 2012. The specification for Java EE 7 was approved by the Java Community Process this month. "[Java] EE 7 really will be aimed at providing a foundation for the cloud," Harris said. Cloud capabilities include accommodation of new roles geared to clouds as well as pluggable cloud services. A subsequent Java EE 8 release, still in a conceptual stage, could build further on cloud capabilities and interoperability, Harris reported. It also could accommodate NoSQL databases.

For the foundational standard platform, Java SE 7 is in a developer preview stage and is due for general release this summer, at which time code will be available. It features capabilities for running other languages well on the Java Virtual machine along with Java syntax enhancements to make code more readable and less error-prone. Accommodations also are in place to improve both parallelization and use of multicore systems.

Java SE 8, due at the end of next year, is set to feature capabilities such as from Project Lambda, for auto-parallelizing in programming. Ideas for Java SE 9 include more language interoperability on top of the JVM and more multicore capabilities. Data-binding also could be made more high-performing and elegant. The intention is to make data-binding easier for programmers.

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