Skip to content

Apple Blows Another Great Opportunity


I hate to be yet another blogger taking a potshot at Apple in the wake of the Leopard release, but I just have to say it: Apple, WTF are you thinking?!  There, I said it, now we can be rational about things.

For those of you living in very cramped fox-holes for the past two years, MacOS X 10.5 (Leopard) is Apple’s latest incarnation of the cult-classic OS, MacOS X.  It’s got multiple workspaces, file system versioning, read-only ZFS support and eye-twisting shadows which make your desktop look about half a mile thick.  It’s got a totally redesigned Finder (which coincidentally looks just like iTunes) and added eye candy for both the Dock and the menu bar.  What it doesn’t have is Java 6.

Sun released Java 6 back in what, last November?  Apple’s had quite a while to get their act in gear and bring the latest major release to the table.  In fact, they’ve had even longer than a year, since Java 6 was in open development long before its release.  Apple did release a few developer previous of Java 6 to ADC members, but they discontinued the practice several months ago and haven’t made anything available since.  It’s not as bad as all that though, the preview releases weren’t too much more than a renamed Java 5 with a few new generic APIs.  Either way, Apple really has no excuse for not having Java 6 ready at least to coincide with the latest version of its OS, if not sooner.

To be totally honest, I don’t see how Apple is even justifying this decision to itself and its stockholders.  Consider how many Java developers have switched to Macintosh over the last few years.  I can count on one hand the number of developers I know and respect who still use Windows or Linux as their primary development machine.  It’s startling the shift in the market which has taken place, partially driven by Rails’s major push of TextMate and the waves it caused throughout the rest of the development community, but also caused by the fact that MacOS X really is a very slick, very stable BSD incarnation which can run smoothly as a desktop.  Well, that and the fact that the Apple hardware just looks so cool.

The thing is, all of these Java developers who’ve switched to Mac recently are going to start second guessing that decision.  Java 6 is now a year overdue for the Mac platform, and Apple is giving no indication of rectifying the situation any time soon.  What’s worse, is the version of Java 5 which does come pre-installed on Leopard seems buggy and unstable (disclaimer: I haven’t actually tested this myself, I just have it on good authority).  Without a modern, stable Java, many developers will be simply unable to use the platform as their primary system.  And guess where these developers will turn?  Either to Linux and all the headaches thereof, or back into Microsoft’s waiting (and well-patented) arms.  Is Apple really so big that it can just give the finger to such a large market segment?

Consider too, what this is going to mean for the future of the Mac platform.  In the last couple years, we’ve seen a vast increase in the quality and quantity of applications available for Macintosh.  I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that this has correlated directly with the up-surge in developers switching their primary platform to OS X.  Think about it, developers who use a certain platform are going to write software with that platform in mind.  It’s only natural.  With more and more developers focusing on Macintosh, the quality of applications for the platform increases, as well as number of new projects focusing exclusively or primarily on the platform for final deployment.  In short, it’s exactly what Apple needs to make the platform a dominant player in the market 5 years from now.  By flipping off the developers, Apple is basically saying “Yes, we know you want to write state-of-the-art applications that run exclusively on our platform, bringing more customers to our outlet stores, but the fact is that we don’t want you writing applications for our platform.  Have you heard of Linux?”

Now I know that speaking out against Apple is like blaspheming a divinity, people have been stoned for less, but it still needs to be said.  For the record, I like Macintosh.  I like the Apple products, and I’ve always loved the Mac OS (ever since my first computer running OS 7).  That said, I have never liked Apple as a company, and this latest fiasco is reminding me why not.  Hopefully Apple will see the error of their ways and offer Java 6 as an update sooner rather than later.  And if not, there’s always Windows!


  1. People still use Java? That dead weight of a framework? Real Mac Developers use Cocoa. Who buys Java apps in any case… look and work like crap on both Windows and Mac.

    Native apps or Web apps are the way to go… Java is for the apps that don’t know that they are dead.

    Get Sun to port and support Java. It should be their responsibility.

    SA Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 8:27 am
  2. :-) I don’t want to get into another flame-war over Java on the desktop.

    I agree with you that Cocoa (which is a *framework*, not a language) is the right way to go if your application is only designed to run on Mac, but most applications these days aren’t targeted exclusively at a single platform. Besides, we aren’t talking about Mac developers. They’ll just use XCode and will remain euphorically happy with Apple’s “excellent” developer tools. What I’m talking about is people like me who make their living off of writing Java. Java is very nearly unique in that you can write and test the application on one platform and deploy it to a totally different one, without any ill effects or strange differences in behavior. This meant that almost any Java developer could use Mac, regardless of the app they were building. Unfortunately, without Java 6, and even worse, without a reliable Java 5, Leopard just isn’t a usable operating system for Java developers.

    Apple wants to maintain Java on Mac, it wasn’t something Sun just shrugged off on them. James Gosling addressed this in one of his recent posts talking about how he switched from Mac to Solaris.

    Daniel Spiewak Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 10:48 am
  3. Good rant!

    It is the story repeating itself. As far as I remember, this was the same when Java5 came out, with all nice new sorts of language features, that the Java community craved for. And the OSX people had to wait for it. A looong time.

    I, for one, refuse to battle with stuff like this, just to be on a “cool” platform. I still am, and reckon I will be for some time to come, primarily developing software on the Java platform. And as such, the best platform seems to be: Tadaah, windows.

    There, I said it. I like free and open source software. I hate M$ software, like crappy Visual Studio. I hate the windows “shell” and the lousy slow file system of theirs. BUT: It is the best desktop platform out there. Linux is great for servers and a real power-platform for developers with its toolset. But boy, does it suck on the desktop part.

    Macs and OSX could have been a great platform for us Java developers, with the best of both worlds. Sadly, Steve is fucking it up for us. Lets the textmate-using, rails-surfer-dudes rule there.

    Per Olesen Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 1:53 pm
  4. The best platform to run Java is Solaris – everything else is an also-ran. That said, just pony up for a copy of VMware Fusion, load OpenSolaris, and you have your upto-date Java tools. If Sun wants to create a Cocoa version of their Java tools in order to evangelize it, they should. I don’t see that happening.

    Mehboob Alam Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 3:57 pm
  5. Java is Sun’s technology and they’re the one to support it on Windows and on Linux. How come Apple is the one to make it happen on the Mac?

    At the time when Apple took the responsibility for the Java virtual machine on the Mac, Java was in ascendency and the Mac platform was faltering. Apple hoped that supporting Java would make the Mac less relevant.

    Forward 10 years or so, Java is nearly irrelevant and the Mac platform is in its best condition ever. I don’t see what kind of motivation Apple has to maintain somebody else’s technology on their platform. The Mac has always been the bastard child with regards to the Java community.

    Anybody that writes applications in Java, almost _almost_ never targets the Mac. I can count the semi-relevant Java-based applications that have any presence on the Mac on a single hand. So the Mac platform’s benefit from supporting Java is minimal at best.

    Java is a neat idea and a neat technology to have on the Mac or any platform for that matter, but thanks to Microsoft, Java never managed to become crucial enough to force any system builder to support it on their own.

    From this point on, I really doubt that Apple will ever support Java as well as Sun supports Java on Windows and Linux.

    It is an unfortunate thing for those developers that switched to the Mac Just to work on Java, but that’s not really Apple’s problem.

    Java’s only hope on the Mac now is for Sun to treat the Mac the same as it does Windows and Linux and do the work themselves.

    John Brave Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 5:33 pm
  6. I get your point about Java needing to be current, but I think the responsibility for this lies with the Java community. Everybody else has their latest tools running on OS X. Apache, PHP, Perl, Ruby, Python, WebKit, the list goes on. It doesn’t even take too much coaxing to run the latest version of Windows on OS X. If you are a Win32 developer you might be quite comfortable. What is Java’s excuse? That Apple didn’t care enough about Java? Apple has iPhone, iPod, iTunes, Xcode, WebKit, QuickTime, AppleScript, DashCode, Final Cut, Logic, and more and Sun has Java. Sun is going to have to drive Java everywhere if it’s going to be everywhere.

    Fred Hamranhansenhan Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 8:10 pm
  7. Sorry, I don’t think Apple markets to Java developers, and the shareholders don’t care about whether Apple supports Java 6. It sounds like you think Apple’s focus should revolve around your Java development world, but it doesn’t. I’m sure it doesn’t diss it either. I’ll bet they’re working on it. If you want to switch to Vista or Solaris, knock yourself out.

    Beckley Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 8:34 pm
  8. Parallels runs Solaris, as well.

    Neil Anderson Sunday, October 28, 2007 at 9:40 pm
  9. I’m just waiting for my Mac and I’m amazed its not going to be running Java 6. As for the people who are saying so what, nobody uses Java they must have their heads in the ground or not understand whats going on in the development comunity at large.

    I’m a developer and a good percentage of developments that I know people are working on are Java based now. Lots of customers for companies I work for are asking for products that can run an multiple platforms. The normal Joe bloggs who just uses a computer for everyday tasks just won’t be aware of any of this.

    Now just think of how much of the web has Java sat behind its workings now and start wondering how Apple plan to make in roads into this ! How the hell can they think for one moment they can because a big player in the server market if they don’t keep their Java offering upto date.

    Comments have also been made on here about who cares about Java. I find this suprising seeing as the bulk of development jobs round the world now seem to be Java based. Java Swing is the most used api for front end GUI development worldwide … I could go on but these are the facts. To ignore it as a development platform for any IT company is just plain crazy.

    Steve Webb Monday, October 29, 2007 at 2:45 am
  10. Agreed with commenters above that it would be nice to see Java stand up on its own now (without Sun, too), but you have to admit that would be more likely to happen if Apple weren’t jerking us around so much. Ever since the first MRJ they’ve come out with very tardy, but nicely done Java revisions–so no one has been compelled to duplicated the effort. With Leopard it’s apparent there has been a lot of internal flip-flopping, and not just in its Java support. Lame is all this is.

    n8han Monday, October 29, 2007 at 9:49 am
  11. Perhaps the time has come to save the money on Leopard and download Ubuntu (PPC or Intel) …

    Javier Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 2:38 am
  12. You may want to read Ars Technica’s review of Leopard, I think there are inklings to what’s going on under the hood.

    Mehboob Alam Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 11:01 am
  13. I made my decision some time ago and now I’m running Unbuntu as my primary OS on my iMac. Mac OS is still there to test some apps and let me inspire by some of the really good ideas of this OS. But at the end it lacks of some of my loved development tools. Je ne regrette rien!

    blind2c Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 12:42 am
  14. > “People still use Java? That dead weight of a framework? Real Mac Developers use Cocoa.”

    SA, you’re so missing the point. Java is currently the most popular programming language world wide (I’m sure you knew that). As for ‘Real Mac Developers’… well, I don’t develop applications specifically for the Mac, but I still like to use a Mac as my tool of choice. Did you ever think of that possibility?

    Dissing any programming language is moronic. Anyone who does misses the point that there is a great opportunity for Apple to service a large target audience who are typically early adaptors and influencers. I think it would just be smart business-wise if Apple would try to keep that group happy.

    Eelco Hillenius Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Post a Comment

Comments are automatically formatted. Markup are either stripped or will cause large blocks of text to be eaten, depending on the phase of the moon. Code snippets should be wrapped in <pre>...</pre> tags. Indentation within pre tags will be preserved, and most instances of "<" and ">" will work without a problem.

Please note that first-time commenters are moderated, so don't panic if your comment doesn't appear immediately.