Oracle's debut of Java Standard Edition 7 in July was a significant event on several fronts. The release was the first major update to the development platform in nearly five years. It also marked the first Java release since Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, Java's previous owner, in January 2010.
And you can bet a lot of people were paying attention. Used by an estimated 9 million developers worldwide and running on more than 1 billion computers, Java is "by far the most deployed language in the world and in the history of computing," said Adam Messinger, vice president of product development for Fusion middleware at Oracle, during the Java SE 7 unveiling.
Java Standard Edition is key because it defines the development language, compiler and core frameworks for the platform. Java SE 7 offers a number of technical advancements, including support for multicore microprocessors and Java Virtual Machine support for non-Java languages.
"It looks like a solid release that has something in there for everyone," said Jim Riley, chief architect at Comframe, a Microsoft channel partner that was acquired by Waltham, Mass.-based NWN in January to beef up the solution provider's application development services.
But the process of completing Java SE 7 wasn't pretty. Friction between Oracle and other members of the Java community, including a split with the Apache Software Foundation open software organization, about Java's overall direction has raised questions about the technology's future as an open development platform.
In a January report subtitled, "Java will be constrained by the bounds of Oracle's business model," Forrester Research analysts John Rymer and Jeffrey Hammond noted that while Sun had practically given Java away to help sell its hardware, "Oracle primarily sells software and will therefore remake Java's 'world order' to serve that business model."
The view that Oracle intends to exercise greater control over Java has been reinforced by Oracle's ongoing lawsuit against Google, charging that Google's use of Java in its Android mobile operating system violates seven Java patents owned by Oracle.
Oracle has vowed to keep Java an open-source technology for customers and developers, as well as licensing it to commercial vendors.
But asserting more control over the Java Community Process (JCP) that develops technical specification standards for Java technology isn't necessarily a bad thing. Development of the next generation of the Java standard had become bogged down, and the Forrester report notes that Oracle "has methodically consolidated its control, herded the unruly Java community onto a single path, and started producing new releases of the core runtime after a four-year lapse."
"We've been actively working to build the community," Messinger said during Java SE 7's formal debut. "Java is strategic to Oracle. We have thousands of people here at Oracle writing software in Java. We have billions of dollars worth of business done on Java software. We've got skin in the game and we'll do what we need to do to make Java a success and keep moving forward."
Next: Java SE 7 Advances The Platform