On Apple and Java and Oracle

| Editorial

Oracle's acquisition of Sun, when final, is raising the specter of the impact on Apple. In fact, Oracle will be hard pressed to doctor Java for its own purposes with IBM, SAP and the open source community watching closely.

So far the emphasis in discussions I've seen is whether Oracle will attempt to monetize Java in ways that Sun didn't with resulting chaos in the Java (and Apple) community. I don't think that's going to happen, and here's why.

First, the Java community is very large. My wife attended Java One last year and reported that it dwarfs WWDC by a considerable amount. There are, I'm guessing, billions of lines of code of Java in place all over the planet, seriously eclipsing C#. That creates a community that can bring to bear considerable pressure on Oracle not to do anything so self-serving that it damages Java for all concerned.

More importantly, Java has been submitted as open source, so the fundamentals of Java are really not under the control of Oracle. Rather, as I understand it, the Java Community Process (JCP) manages the open source project, Java. JCP Members include Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM and SAP AG to name just a few powerful and influential companies - most of which are competitors.

If Oracle were to attempt a subtle manipulation of the language in order to make life difficult for, say, SAP and IBM, these companies would, if they could not settle the matter via the JCP, end up taking things in to their own hands in such a way that the value of Java as we know it would be diminished.

That would certainly not be in the best interests of Oracle who is depending on Java to sustain its vision of a complete solution of the hardware, the OS, the database, and the middleware.

The real value of Java is what developers can create with it. For example, Apple customers don't really care what language is used to develop Mac and iPhone apps; all they know is that some apps are crap and some are insanely great.

That said, there may be some who believe that IBM will try to pick a fight over this with Oracle. There could be a lot of huffing and puffing by IBM, but they had their chance. In the end Oracle's vision for how to exploit the value of Java as an open source language will trump any desire to manipulate perhaps the world's most valuable and capable language to its own ends.

And if Larry Ellison has any doubt about that, his old friend in Cupertino will hopefully give him a quick call as a firm reminder.

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4 Comments

qwerty

Don’t you think your overstating the importance of Java to Apple. I can’t think of too many, if any, useful Mac applications written in Java. Clearly, Obj-C is the language of choice on Mac OS and iPhone OS. Java is tremendously valuable as a server-side language in the enterprise, and Apple really doesn’t play in that sandbox.

John Martellaro

I do not.  While the percentage of major consumer apps on the Mac written in Java is small, the Mac is a very popular Java development platform—regardless of the target OS—in the enterprise.  At Java One each May in S.F. one sees a LOT of MacBooks and Apple Macbooks have been the favored notebook by Sun employees.  It’s in Apple’s best interests to continue to have a big fraction of those billions of lines of Java code written for the enterprise and government be written on Macs.

-JM

Jeff

John, you’re certainly right! One of the biggest development systems out in the enterprise is the Eclipse IDE. It is growing with applications extremely fast and is used by several companies as a kind of Xcode development system for the other guys. There is no doubt that Eclipse and other Java-based environments (and C, C++, Python, etc.) are absconding with the enterprise Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) for running the future business systems. I’m not sure Microsoft can keep up with these Open Source developments anymore.

wheeles

Oracle’s acquisition of Sun was never about Java. It’s about Oracle being able to offer the full range of software and hardware infrastructure for storing and serving data. Oracle probably doesn’t care too much about Java. That’s just one of the many software efforts by Sun that Oracle will gain in addition to what Oracle was really after: a mature hardware platform on which a large number of their servers already run.

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