Oracle's importance to Java's future overstated

Even if Sun's technologies get lost in Oracle's treasure chest, Java's development has other forces behind it

Oracle's importance to Java's future overstated

Can Oracle take the reins on Java? Maybe it doesn't really have to.

Java founder James Gosling, to whom I had PR-free access at the recent Hadoop Summit 2010 conference, was very frank in his assessment of Oracle's stewardship of Java, now that Oracle has bought up Java creator Sun Microsystems.

"The core VM on enterprise hardware, that's the core of their business. They understand that," Gosling said. "They will execute really well on that. Outside of that, when it comes to the desktop stuff and the cell phone stuff, they find it very confusing."

[ More from the Hadoop Summit 2010 conference: Yahoo adds security and workflow management to Hadoop | Stay up to date on key software development trends in InfoWorld's Developer World newsletter. ]

As I've reported, Gosling left Oracle after just a few weeks working for the company, under apparently less-than-friendly circumstances. Also departing since the announcement of the acquisition have been JRuby gurus Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo, who shepherded development of a version of the Ruby language for the Java Virtual Machine.

Oracle has expressed commitments to Java and the JavaFX client-side multimedia platform, a latecomer to the rich Internet application space. Under Oracle's watch, a new release of the NetBeans IDE was released this month, with JavaFX capabilities. Oracle officials, including former Sun official Jeet Kaul, have expressed intentions to keep Java interesting with the planned Java 7 release, with plans to add capabilities for multicore programming.

Oracle also has set its sights on attracting young developers to Java, a worthy goal since the 15-year-old platform must share the spotlight with a multitude of dynamic scripting languages, as well as Microsoft's .Net development technologies.

But I just don't hear as much from Oracle about what's going on with Java as I did when Sun was in charge. You can attribute some of that to the departures of PR folks who used to throw Java news at me all the time.

But perhaps Java can no longer can get the level of focus it received at Sun. While Java was the crown jewel of the software side of Sun (Solaris devotees may argue this point), Java now joins a crowded house of Oracle technologies that ranges from the company's stalwart relational database to the MySQL database and application technologies acquired when the company bought BEA, PeopleSoft, Siebel, and others.

Oracle, however, is not the only game in town when it comes to Java technology development. The popular Spring Framework for Java application development, for example, sprung up independently of Sun, and Oracle doesn't control it. 

The Eclipse Foundation also exists to build Java tools, even though Sun shunned it for the most part. Yahoo, meanwhile, has led development of the Java-based Hadoop distributed computing system, which has become a hot technology.

Ventures such as the Apache Software Foundation and the JBoss division of Red Hat also have offered key Java technologies.

So Gosling may or may not be right that Oracle doesn't get the client side of the Java equation, though it will excel on the server side of the house. But even if Oracle never measures up in some aspects of Java technology, someone else can fill the gaps. Oracle just isn't that important to Java.

This article, "Oracle's importance to Java's future overstated," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

InfoWorld Technology of the Year Awards 2023. Now open for entries!