Oracle looks to keep Java interesting and attract young developers

Company officials at EclipseCon also pledged a new approach to the Java Community Process

Java will need to be kept interesting if it is to maintain its prominence as the top programming language, an Oracle official stressed Wednesday during a Silicon Valley technical conference.

To that end, features like closures are being added to the platform with version 7, said Jeet Kaul, vice president of the client software division at Oracle. In addition to the Java language, the Java development platform also includes the Java Virtual Machine, offering hardware and OS agnosticism on platforms accommodating the JVM.

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"There's all kinds of new things that are happening and Java needs to adapt to that," said Kaul, amidst a question-and-answer session at the EclipseCon 2010 conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

Closures, or first-class functions and lambda expressions, make it easier to write applications for multi-core programming. Also needed are changes to bolster generics support and more accommodation for other languages, Kaul said. Multi-language support is a focus of the upcoming Java Development Kit 7.

"We need to get the younger generation interested and excited [about Java] just like I was," Kaul said.

"I would like to see people with piercings doing Java programming," he said.

With the January closing of its acquisition of Java founder Sun Microsystems, Oracle now is the steward of numerous Java innovations and processes. Oracle officials at the conference Wednesday fielded questions on a variety of issues pertaining to Java, including the direction of the much-maligned JCP (Java Community Process) for amending official Java specifications. A day earlier at EclipseCon, two of the panelists, Kaul and Oracle Vice President Steve Harris, plotted a modular future for Java and charted goals for the Java community.

With the JCP, Oracle officials pledged a new approach.

"The JCP and Java overall, we feel needs to move faster, be more agile, be more flexible," Harris said. "To the extent the JCP has been the primary vehicle to standardize Java and move it forward, I think it needs to move forward more quickly."

The community and structure around the JCP must "be tweaked and pushed to enable that to happen" and Oracle is committed to doing this, Harris said.

He also offered perspectives on the GlassFish application server Oracle acquired with Sun. GlassFish, Harris said, brings a set of developers, a methodology and an approach to development for Oracle to absorb into its DNA, Harris said. Oracle has positioned GlassFish as a departmental application server while the former BEA WebLogic application server is the company's primary enterprise application server. But that has not stopped Oracle's James Gosling, CTO for the company's client software group and a former Sun official, from lauding GlassFish as a key cog in data centers, as he did last week.

Oracle officials Wednesday also committed to supporting three separate IDEs: JDeveloper, which the company already has owned; Eclipse, developed by the Oracle-backed Eclipse Foundation, and newly acquired NetBeans IDE that came over in the Sun buy.

"We understand there is a bit of religion," around IDEs, said Dennis Leung, Oracle vice president of software development. "People are religious, very passionate about the IDEs they use. We're not here to convert people."

Leung also said Oracle has been the second-most active participant in the Eclipse community for a number of years. The most active participant is Eclipse founder IBM, according to the foundation.

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