Dear Apple: Some Java Love, Please?

I love your machines. Truly, I do. Back in 1988 I bought a toaster-model Mac SE, with one megabyte of RAM, and I loved it. It only had a nine inch, black-and-white screen, and I loved it. For various reasons, I sort of lost the love for a while, until 2006. I acquired an iBook G4 in a hardware trade with a friend and I quickly became hooked on the sweet goodness that is OSX. That was in August, 2006. Two months later I bought a Mac Pro, which I love so much I sometimes feel the need to kiss it goodnight.

But there’s one thing about the Mac that bothers me: lousy Java support. Sun handles JDK releases for Windows and Sun machines and every Linux system on the planet. Yet, for some inscrutable reason, you have decided to handle Java for OSX yourself. And, not to be rude, but I just have to say that you suck at maintaining Java for the Mac!!! Let me ‘splain.

Sun released the first version of Java 6 for Windows, Linux and Solaris in December 2006. Two days ago, Sun released the tenth update for Java 6, again for Windows, Linux and Solaris. On September 24, 2008, you guys released Java 6_07, which was nice to finally get it, but it’s only for Leopard systems and it’s only for 64bit machines. My Mac Pro is 64bit and Leopard, but my iBook is 32bit and can’t run Leopard. And what about the tons of other developers out there who don’t meet these requirements? I can’t think of a good reason you have restricted Java 6 in this way, but I can think of a few bad reasons. Probably the easiest to come up with is that you’re trying to force Java developers to buy more expensive Apple machines.

What’s really funny about the crappy state of Java on the Mac is comments from Sir Steve himself, several years ago. I was at JavaOne in 2000. Sir Steve was the Mystery Date™ for the keynote speech on Day One of the conference. His Steveness trots on stage, clad all in black, and proclaims that he was going to make the Mac the ultimate platform for Java developers. Apple would be bundling Java 2 SE with OSX. And the crowd went wild. And he did make the Mac a great Java development platform. For a while. I can’t tell you how many conferences I went to after that, Java conferences, where the majority of developers were toting Mac laptops around. 

But then you started falling behind with the releases. And then you started restricting which of your users were worthy of getting updates. What gives, Apple? If Sun can release timely versions of Java that run on a ton of disparate systems, why can’t you release timely versions that run across your own hardware family? It’s absurd that you are only supporting 64bit Leopard system for the latest versions of Java, and even then you make us wait forever. 

So, how can we fix this? I think you should go back to Sun and say something like,

I’m sorry, Sun. We like to meticulously control everything, but in this case, that desire has caused us to hose down our customers. They’re not happy, and we can’t figure out a good way to appease them. Please, Sun, would you take over maintenance of the JDK/JRE for OSX? We’d really appreciate it.

Or something like that. Something needs to happen soon. Although the lastest version sounds like just another update to Java6, there are actually lots of new features that are going to really improve Java. Except those of us on the Mac have to wait for some unknown amount of time before you guys release your own version. And if we’re not 64bit Leopard, we’re screwed.

Please, Apple, help us out with some timely Java love, OK?


Joey Gibson

21 thoughts on “Dear Apple: Some Java Love, Please?

  1. I share your pain.

    I’ve got a 32bit Mac and can’t run Java 6 on it. The best I can do is run Parallels to run Windows or Linux and then use Java 6 in them. Its a real pain but I can’t see Apple releasing Java 6 for 32-bit machines.

  2. Yep Joe, it’s all so true. It seems to me that Apple jumped on the Java bandwagon 8 years ago when it was trendy … rather than keep support for the platform current, after a brief infatuation they get tired of it and dump the infatuation for the next trendy thing they’ve found. Once Java became a solid server-side platform used by banks and insurance companies, it no longer had the brand cachet to keep Apple’s eye from wandering. So they scaled back their financial commitment to it. Which is why their releases are so late I guess.

    They just don’t want to play in a universe where their developers use their machines for a development platform to write an insurance portal using a language for deployment on … Redhat. That’s just not cool, unlike say writing a Cocoa-utilising Ruby app that downloads RSS feeds generates cool looking graphics and music published to your mobile me account and pops off links to twitter and your facebook site.

  3. Don’t forget fellas.. at the unveiling of the iphone.. Sir Jobs told the world that Java was dead. Now.. most of us java developers knew what he meant.. but all them CIOs, CEOs, and the likes that don’t develop with it, but are in a position to make decisions, heard one of the dominant role models in the tech industry say Java was dead. Frankly, I think Steve is a big reason in the last year or so that Java has lost some appeal and focus.. and yet this latest update proves it’s far from dead! I can build Swing desktop apps faster than using other options and quite frankly, they’re pretty nice… not to mention total control over the code (I am not a fan of RAD development with Swing.. and Netbeans is really the only game in town for Swing RAD anyway).

    I agree with the OP.. Sun should take over Java on Mac. Hell.. it’s BSD underneath.. it’s not like they would have a problem with this.

  4. This is not a Java or Sun problem is an Apple problem. I suggest move to another platform. The Mac is full of hype, buzz and zealots. It is not practical, do you remember the problem with Iphone and NDA just a couple of weeks got released but not 100% at all still some problems. Apple is very problematic company. Im givin away my Macbook because this platform does not have a future really folks. Also maybe Steve Jobs will retired, I see him very tired.


  5. I’m with you Joey. There are so many Java developers using Macs in the conferences that you might think that is an Apple event. Yet Apple Java support is not that great (and it seems that each year it’s worse)

    I hope Steve will take care of this.

  6. Hey, OtengiM, if you’re abandoning the Mac for some other utopian platform and are, in fact, “giving away your Macbook,” you can give it to me. I’d love to have another one.

  7. Pingback: A Concurrent Affair » Blog Archive » Re: Dear Apple: Some Java Love, Please?

  8. grow up!! why would they do something for free? pay them and they will do what you tell them to do, dont be so cheap. if company only has like 5 java users they wont be maintaining java. java on comodore also has problems with maintenance. why dont you help them? i bet you can contribute code.

  9. “Probably the easiest to come up with is that you’re trying to force Java developers to buy more expensive Apple machines.”

    Nah! It is more likely that they are trying to push developers to use their own runtime and APIs instead of a third party solution that enables applications to run unmodified on competitive platforms on which Apple has no control or interest. 🙂

    What people don’t understand is that Apple is a software platform company first and a hardware vendor as a means to an end. Hardware, whether PC or mobile, is only a commodity business if you approach the market that way. Their software platform is the key that pulls Apple out of the commodity.

  10. Two years ago I was so fed up with viruses on Wintel and how far behind Linux support was for laptops that I was ready to buy a Mac. Apple’s pathetic support for Java kept me from buying one, however. I see that hasn’t changed.

    Now installing Linux on a laptop is about as easy as installing XP (Network Manager sets up your wireless connection automatically), but Steve Jobs is still stiffing his customers when it comes to Java support. Jobs callous disregard for his customers has turned me off on the Mac all together.

    He’s more interested in selling iPhones and MP3 players on the consumer market than he is in selling tools to engineers. We’re a demanding bunch. Jobs has always been about selling overpriced niche machines with great UIs on them. Now he’s moved onto consumer gadgets. Improvements in Linux make that no big loss.

    Thank God for Linux.

  11. Raveman, I’m not sure who you’re addressing in your absurd rant. Apple decided to manage their own Java implementation, but they’re doing it very poorly. They should let Sun handle it, like they handle most other implementations.

  12. Yeah, Jack, I know about SoyLatte, and have used it. But the problem is that it uses X11, which looks like total crap on OSX. (That’s X11’s fault, not the developers of SoyLatte.)

  13. I have been developing in Java on the Mac since before 2000 when the only version supported was 1.3.1 (IIRC). Back then Apple was very excited about Java – they even paraded around any existing Java apps that targeted the Mac (ours was one of the first – a pre-press layout app). The reason was to attract people to the platform – they didn’t really care about Java, it was a means to an end. From the beginning they were way behind the curve in their releases – especially when they went from OS9 to OSX. They weren’t going to upgrade Java support on OS9 when they knew they were working on OSX and Java support there – two reasons: one, they didn’t want to duplicate the effort to support Java on both – two, they wanted devs to develop for OSX and not OS9.

    When OSX took off and devs eventually native apps appeared in enough quantity then Java was no longer important to them and they started putting it on the back burner. Not only with regards to being released years later than the same release on Windows/Linux, but also with regards to support as a first tier language for development.

    So yeah, OSX and Macs are great – I use my MacPro for all the dev work I can (current employer is a Linux shop that doesn’t allow me to use OSX), but don’t hold your breath waiting for Apple to care about Java on OSX or do anything different than they are now – we are second class citizens to them and always will be.

    Fortunately for me I have a 64 bit machine and much of the dev work out there still targets either Java 5 or versions of Java 6 that work on my MacPro – many enterprise shops are farther behind the curve in this regards than Apple. Sad but true.

    We are left to our own devices. Steve and Apple just don’t care and don’t want to hear our complaints which we have voiced for years – crying in the wilderness.

  14. Apple has NOTHING to gain from Java. They are a consumer-company, and lets face it, there arent that many consumers that would refuse a mac due to lack of Java support. We will not see better Java support, because it does not drive sales of Apple machines.

    On the other hand, does the lack of Java6 really matter? Some companies havent even switched to Java5 yet.

  15. Java is dead, that’s why the Android is going to wipe the floor with the iphone. Wake up Jobs, your house is rotting.

  16. So, no Java 1.6 on my 32bit PPC machine. Totally pisses me off. But I understand why. The simple fact is that iPods and iPhones make more money for Apple than whiny Java developers. Oh la di da, we bought a laptop from Apple. That totally makes it worthwhile for Apple to drop billion dollar projects like the iPhone and focus on men with beards who only run Linux on their servers because of “freedom and stuff”.

    Java developers are a million plus group of people and yet are probably completely irrelevant to Apple. They crunched the numbers and we got beat by 14 year old girls who like pink ponies and who thinks John Mayer is totally dreamy. This is all marked economics. How many Java developers run OS X server ? Oh, wait, you’re talking about the desktop API ? Swing ? The API that Sun ignored for five years ? Now it’s all about cowbell and stuff they tell me.

    Maybe I sound like a douche here, but Apple simply made a business decision and us Java guys got cut from the budget. Start deploying on Apple hardware and maybe Apple would listen. Java 1.6u10 is not Java 1.6u10. It’s “Java on the Desktop 1.0”. This is why people are bitching. The Sun promise from 1998 is finally here and Apple stopped caring a long time ago.

    Blame Sun, not Apple. If you think this is all bullshit, start reading stock tickers. Both Sun and Apple got a ton of cash. But Apple got the balls to move in a new direction. Sun buys MySQL (with $50m annual revenue) for (evil pinky) one billion dollars. Now THAT is radical. Now Sun has two open source databases under partial semi-permanent control.

    Sun focuses on the server and Apple focuses on the desktop. Sun could have spent – one billion dollars – on the Java 1.6u10 for OS X, but instead they bought MySQL. Why ? Because Sun wants to sell more servers. Apple wants to sell laptops, portable music players and cellphones.

  17. The reason for restricting Java 6 in this way is the same as for a lot of other techs where there is no support on not-completely-up-to-date machines:
    Apple always tries to force ALL Apple users to buy new and more expensive Apple machines.

    That’s one of the reasons I didn’t switch to OS X some years ago but went to Linux instead.

    (and to the trolls: I wonder why your comments are not simply deleted…)

  18. Please Mr. Steve Jobs help us for Java 1.6 developing in our 32-bit macs. I can develop only JDK 1.5 based projects in my mac. I have to use vmware fusion for JDK 1.6 based projects. It is not good for me because I need windows or linux for developing JDK 1.6 based projects on my Mac OSX!!! It is a shame for Apple.

  19. The major problem here is not that “Apple simply made a business decision and us Java guys got cut from the budget”, it’s that Apple is actually HOLDING BACK Java on the Mac Platform. Either do it or don’t. We are kept in limbo by Apple, and that hurts.

    It really makes me wonder why Apple still wants to control the Mac version of Java…

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