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Java's Future 'Assured' on Mac OS X as Apple Backs OpenJDK

OpenJDK Timeline

Oracle's Henrik Ståhl said it's too soon to give a specific date for a Mac OS X release of an open source Java SE 7 implementation. But he did say it will likely lag behind other platforms.

At present, according to OpenJDK project spokesperson Mark Reinhold, Java SE 7 (a less feature-rich version than was previously planned) is expected to be released in mid-2011, with version 8 to follow in late 2012.

Apple is actively working to bring a Java SE 7 (Java Platform, Standard Edition) implementation to Mac OS X. The company said Friday it's working with Oracle to launch an OpenJDK project for Mac OS X and promised to contribute "key components, tools and technology" for such an implementation.

OpenJDK ("Java Development Kit") is an open source implementation of the Java SE platform for developing and deploying Java-based apps on a range of computing platforms, including desktops and servers.

According to information released by Apple today, the company will contribute "32-bit and 64-bit HotSpot-based Java virtual machine[s], class libraries, a networking stack and the foundation for a new graphical client. OpenJDK will make Apple's Java technology available to open source developers so they can access and contribute to the effort."

Apple said future versions of Java SE, starting with version 7, would come from Oracle, while Java SE 6 would continue to be supplied by Apple for Mac OS X 10.6 and the forthcoming Mac OS X 10.7 ("Lion").

A joint release from Apple and Oracle read, in part: "Apple also confirmed that Java SE 6 will continue to be available from Apple for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the upcoming release of Mac OS X Lion. Java SE 7 and future versions of Java for Mac OS X will be available from Oracle."

According to Oracle spokesman Henrik Ståhl, who handles product strategy for the company's the Java Platform Group, the agreement has "assured" Java's future on Mac OS X. He said in a blog post today that the the agreement took some time to reach and wasn't without its frustrations, however.

"This announcement is the result of a discussion between Oracle and Apple that has been going on for some time," he wrote. "I understand that the uncertainty since Apple's widely circulated 'deprecation' of Java has been frustrating, but due to the nature of these things we have neither wanted to or been able to communicate before. That is as it is, I'm afraid.

Ståhl said he expects Java SE 7 to be released on "current supported platforms first, and that [Mac OS X] support will follow later. The JDK 7 schedule can not easily accommodate large changes like the addition of a new platform."

He said it's too early to provide a specific timeframe for the release. OpenJDK's Mark Reinhold said in September that JDK 7's previous release schedule was "unrealistic," owing in part to the acquisition of Sun by Oracle and the time it took to integrate the organizations. So a "Plan B" was developed, putting an initial release of Java SE 7 in mid-2011 and Java SE 8, incorporating many features that had been planned initially for Java SE 7, in late-2012.

Apple is the second major player in computing to strike such a deal with Oracle. IBM made a similar announcement around this time last month. Oracle's senior vice president of development, Hasan Rizvi, characterized the agreements as signs of significant support for the continued development of open source Java SE implementations.

"We are excited to welcome Apple as a significant contributor in the growing OpenJDK community," said Hasan Rizvi, Oracle senior vice president of development, in a prepared statement released today. "The availability of Java on Mac OS X plays a key role in the cross-platform promise of the Java platform. The Java developer community can rest assured that the leading edge Java environment will continue to be available on Mac OS X in the future. Combined with last month's announcement of IBM joining the OpenJDK, the project now has the backing of three of the biggest names in software."

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