Apple Deprecates Java, Steve Jobs Comments, Java Creator Rebuts

Apple announced to developers on Thursday that the company was deprecating Java for Mac OS X, warning that, “developers should not rely on the Apple-supplied Java runtime being present in future versions of Mac OS X.” When asked about the move by a developer, Apple CEO Steve Jobs allegedly replied that it may be better to let Oracle do future updates for Java for Mac.

In the world of software, the term deprecation is used when a feature is considered to be obsolete or on the way out. In this case, Apple is telling software developers that the version of Java for Mac OS X that is ported by Apple is on the outs, which may or may not be an indication of Apple’s feelings about Java as a whole.

Apple did say that it would continue to support the current Java runtime in Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) through the standard support cycles of both OSes.

MacRumors reported that Scott Fraser, the CEO of Portico Systems, a developer of Enterprise software written in Java, wrote Steve Jobs an e-mail asking if Apple was killing off Java on the Max. Mr. Fraser posted a screenshot of his e-mail and what he said was a reply from Mr. Jobs.

In that reply. Mr. Jobs wrote, “Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms. They have their own release schedules, which are almost always different than ours, so the Java we ship is always a version behind. This may not be the best way to do it.”

The implication, though specifically not the statement, being that Sun (now Oracle) will therefore supply Java for Mac OS X, too. If so, it would relieve Apple of a burden that few within the company are likely to carry about, as Java development is found on Mac OS X almost exclusively in the Enterprise space.

There’s only one problem with that, however, and that’s the small fact that Oracle (used to be Sun) doesn’t actually supply Java for all other platforms, at least not according to Java creator James Gosling, who said in a blog post Friday, “It simply isn’t true that ‘Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms’. IBM supplies Java for IBM’s platforms, HP for HP’s, even Azul systems does the JVM for their systems (admittedly, these all start with code from Snorcle - but then, so does Apple).”

Dr. Gosling also pointed out that it’s true that Sun (now Oracle) does supply Java for Windows, but only because Sun took it away from Microsoft after Big Redmond tried its “embrace and extend” strategy of crippling Java’s cross-platform capabilities by adding Windows-only features in the port it had been developing.

Sun also provides Java for Linux, “because there was no one else to do it.”

Windows and Linux does not exactly meet the definition of “all other platforms.”

Then again, Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Oracle (which, as we’ve repeatedly pointed out, now owns Sun) CEO Larry Ellison are best buds, and the idea that Apple made this move without Messrs. Jobs and Ellison having discussed the issue seems doubtful.

So, what this means for the future of Java on the Mac platform is anyone’s guess.