Category Archives: java

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Google App Engine and why vendor honesty pays

I’ve just attended a Cloudstock session on Google App Engine and new Google platform technologies – an introductory talk by Google’s Christian Schalk.

App Engine has been a subject of considerable debate recently, thanks to a blog post by Carlos Ble called Goodbye App Engine:

Choosing GAE as the platform four our project is a mistake which cost I estimate in about 15000€. Considering it’s been my money, it is a "bit" painful.

Ble’s points is that App Engine has many limitations. Since Google tends not to highlight these in its marketing, Ble discovered them as he went, causing frustrations and costly workarounds. In addition, it has not proved reliable:

Once you overcome all the limitations with your complex code, you are supposed to gain scalabilty for millions of users. After all, you are hosted by Google. This is the last big lie.

Since the last update they did in september 2010, we starting facing random 500 error codes that some days got the site down 60% of the time.

Ble has now partially retracted his post.

I am rewriting this post is because Patrick Chanezon (from Google), has added a kind and respectful comment to this post. Given the huge amount of traffic this post has generated (never expected nor wanted) I don’t want to damage the GAE project which can be a great platform in the future.

He is still not exactly positive, and adds:

I also don’t want to try Azure. The more experience I gain, the less I trust platforms/frameworks which code I can’t see.

Ble’s post is honest, but many of the issues are avoidable and arguably his main error was not to research the platform more thoroughly before than diving in. He blames the platform for issues that in some cases are implementation mistakes.

Still, here at Cloudstock I was interested to see if Schalk was going to mention any of these limitations or respond to Ble’s widely-read post. The answer is no – I got the impression that anything you can do in Java or Python, you can do on App Engine, with unlimited scalability thrown in.

My view is that it pays vendors to explain the “why not” as well as the “why” of using their platform. Otherwise there is a risk of disillusionment, and disillusioned customers are hard to win back.

What you are saying about the Java crisis

A week or so ago I posted about the Java crisis and what it means for developers. The post attracted attention both here and later on The Guardian web site where it appeared as a technology blog. It was also picked up by Reddit prompting a discussion with over 500 posts.

So what are you saying? User LepoldVonRanke takes a pragmatic view:

I’d much rather have Java given a purpose and streamlined from a central authoritative body with a vision, than a community-run egg-laying, wool-growing, milk-giving super cow pig-sheep, that runs into ten directions at the same time, and therefore does not go anywhere. The Java ship needs a captain. Sun never got a good shot at it. There was always someone trying to wrestle control over Java away. With the Oracle bully as Uberfather, maybe Java has a place to go.

which echoes my suggestion that Java might technically be better of under more dictatorial control, unpalatable though that may be. User 9ren is sceptical:

Theoretically, the article is quite right that Java could advance faster under Oracle. It would be more proprietary, and of course more focussed on the kinds of business applications that bring in revenue for Oracle. It would be in Oracle’s interest; and the profit motive might even be a better spur than Sun had.

But – in practice – can they actual execute the engineering challenges?

Although Oracle has acquired many great software engineers (eg. from Sun, BEA Systems, many others), do they retain them? Does their organizational structure support them? And is Oracle known for attracting top engineering talent in general?

In its formation, Oracle had great software engineers (theirs was the very first commercial relational database, a feat many thought impossible). But that was 40 years ago, and now it’s a (very successful) sales-driven company.

There’s an important point from djhworld:

Java is hugely popular in the enterprise world, companies have invested millions and millions of pounds in the Java ecosystem and I don’t see that changing. Many companies still run Java 1.4.2 as their platform because it’s stable enough for them and would cost too much to upgrade.

The real business world goes at its own pace, whereas tech commentators tend to focus on the latest news and try to guess the future. It is a dangerous disconnect. Take no notice of us. Carry on coding.

On Reddit, some users focused on my assertion that the C# language was more advanced than Java. Is it? jeffcox111 comments:

I write in C# and Java professionally and I have to say I prefer C# hands down. Generics are very old news now in .Net. Take a look at type inference, lambdas, anonymous types, and most of all take a look at LINQ. These are all concepts that have been around for 3 years now in .Net and I hate living without them in Java. With .Net 5 on the horizon we are looking forward to better asynchronous calling/waiting and a bunch of other coolness. Java was good, but .Net is better these days.

and I liked this remark on LINQ:

I remember my first experience with LINQ after using C# for my final-year project (a visual web search engine). I asked a C# developer for some help on building a certain data structure and the guy sent me a pseudocode-looking stuff. I thanked him for the help and said that I’d look to find a way to code it and he said "WTF, I just gave you the code".

From there on I’ve never looked back.

Another discussion point is write once – run anywhere. Has it ever been real? Does it matter?

The company I work for has a large Java "shrinkwrap" app. It runs ok on Windows. It runs like shit on Mac, and it doesn’t run at all on Linux.

write once, run anywhere has always been a utopian pipe dream. And the consequence of this is that we now have yet another layer of crap that separates applications from the hardware.

says tonymt, though annannsi counters:

I’ve worked on a bunch of Java projects running on multiple unix based systems, windows and mac. GUI issues can be a pain to get correct, but its been fine in general. Non-GUI apps are basically there (its rare but I’ve hit bugs in the JVM specific to a particular platform)

Follow the links if you fancy more – I’ll leave the last word to A_Monkey:

I have a Java crisis every time I open eclipse.

The Java crisis and what it means for developers

What is happening with the Java language and runtime? Since Java passed into the hands of Oracle, following its acquisition of Sun, there has been a succession of bad news. To recap:

  • The JavaOne conference in September 2010 was held in the shadow of Oracle OpenWorld making it a less significant event than in previous years.
  • Oracle is suing Google, claiming that Java as used in the Android SDK breaches its copyright.
  • IBM has abandoned the Apache open source Harmony project and is committing to the Oracle-supported Open JDK. Although IBM’s Sutor claims that this move will “help unify open source Java efforts”, it seems to have been done without consultation with Apache and is as much divisive as unifying.
  • Apple is deprecating Java and ceasing to develop a Mac-specific JVM. This should be seen in context. Apple is averse to runtimes of any kind – note its war against Adobe Flash – and seems to look forward to a day when all or most applications delivered to Apple devices come via the Apple-curated and taxed app store. In mitigation, Apple is cooperating with the OpenJDK and OpenJDK for Mac OS X has been announced.
  • Apache has written a strongly-worded blog post claiming that Oracle is “violating their contractual obligation as set forth under the rules of the JCP”, where JCP is the Java Community Process, a multi-vendor group responsible for the Java specification but in which Oracle/Sun has special powers of veto. Apache’s complaint is that Oracle stymies the progress of Harmony by refusing to supply the test kit for Java (TCK) under a free software license. Without the test kit, Harmony’s Java conformance cannot be officially verified.
  • The JCP has been unhappy with Oracle’s handling of Java for some time. Many members disagree with the Google litigation and feel that Oracle has not communicated well with the JCP. JCP member Doug Lea stood down, claiming that “the JCP is no longer a credible specification and standards body”. Another member, Stephen Colebourne, has a series of blog posts in which he discusses the great war of Java and what he calls the “unravelling of the JCP”, and recently  expressed his view that Oracle was trying to manipulate the recent JCP elections.

To set this bad news in context, Java was not really in a good way even before the acquisition. While Sun was more friendly towards open source and collaboration, the JCP has long been perceived as too slow to evolve Java, and unrepresentative of the wider Java community. Further, Java’s pre-eminence as a pervasive cross-platform runtime has been reduced. As a browser plug-in it has fallen behind Adobe Flash, the JavaFX initiative failed to win wide developer support, and on mobile it has also lost ground. Java’s advance as a language has been too slow to keep up with Microsoft’s C#.

There are a couple of ways to look at this.

One is to argue that bad news followed by more bad news means Java will become a kind of COBOL, widely used forever but not at the cutting edge of anything.

The other is to argue that since Java was already falling behind, radical change to the way it is managed may actually improve matters.

Mike Milinkovich at the Eclipse Foundation takes a pragmatic view in a recent post. He concedes that Oracle has no idea how to communicate with the Java community, and that the JCP is not vendor-neutral, but says that Java can nevertheless flourish:

I believe that many people are confusing the JCP’s vendor neutrality with its effectiveness as a specifications organization. The JCP has never and will never be a vendor-neutral organization (a la Apache and Eclipse), and anyone who thought it so was fooling themselves. But it has been effective, and I believe that it will be effective again.

It seems to me Java will be managed differently after it emerges from its crisis, and that on the scale between “open” and “proprietary” it will have moved towards proprietary but not in a way that destroys the basic Java proposition of a free development kit and runtime. It is also possible, even likely, that Java language and technology will advance more rapidly than before.

For developers wondering what will happen to Java at a technical level, the best guide currently is still the JDK Roadmap, published in September. Some of its key points:

  • The open source Open JDK is the basis for the Oracle JDK.
  • The Oracle JDK and Java Runtime Environment (JRE) will continue to be available as free downloads, with no changes to the existing licensing models.
  • New features proposed for JDK 7 include better support for dynamic languages and concurrent programming. JDK 8 will get Lambda expression.

While I cannot predict the outcome of Oracle vs Google or even Apache vs Oracle, my guess is that there will be a settlement and that Android’s momentum will not be disrupted.

That said, there is little evidence that Oracle has the vision that Sun once had, to make Java truly pervasive and a defence against lock-in to proprietary operating systems. Microsoft seems to have lost that vision for .NET and Silverlight as well – though the Mono folk have it. Adobe still has it for Flash, though like Oracle it seems if anything to be retreating from open source.

There is therefore some sense in which the problems facing Java (and Silverlight) are good for .NET, for Mono and for Adobe. Nevertheless, 2010 has been a bad year for write once – run anywhere.

Update: Oracle has posted a statement saying:

The recently released statement by the ASF Board with regard to their participation in the JCP calling for EC members to vote against SE7 is a call for continued delay and stagnation of the past several years. We would encourage Apache to reconsider their position and work together with Oracle and the community at large to collectively move Java forward.  Oracle provides TCK licenses under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms consistent with its obligations under the JSPA.   Oracle believes that with EC approval to initiate the SE7 and SE8 JSRs, the Java community can get on with the important work of driving forward Java SE and other standards in open, transparent, consensus-driven expert groups.   This is the priority.   Now is the time for positive action.  Now is the time to move Java forward.

to which Apache replies succinctly:

The ball is in your court. Honor the agreement.

Microsoft PDC big on Azure, quiet on Silverlight

I’m at Microsoft PDC in Seattle. The keynote, introduced by CEO Steve Ballmer, started with a recap of the company’s success with Windows 7 – 240 million sold, we were told, and adoption plans among 88% of businesses – and showing off Windows Phone 7 (all attendees will receive a device) and Internet Explorer 9.

IE9 guy Dean Hachamovitch demonstrated the new browser’s hardware acceleration, and made an intriguing comment. When highlighting IE9’s embrace of web standards, he noted that “accelerating only pieces of the browser holds back the web.” It sounded like a jab at plug-ins, but what about Microsoft’s own plug-in, Silverlight? A good question. You could put this together with Ballmer’s comment that “We’ve tried to make web the feel more like native applications” as evidence that Microsoft sees HTML 5 rather than Silverlight as its primary web application platform.

Then again you can argue that it just happens Microsoft had nothing to say about Silverlight, other than in the context of Windows Phone 7 development, and that its turn will come. The new Azure portal is actually built in Silverlight.

The messaging is tricky, and I found it intriguing, especially coming after the Adobe MAX conference where there were public sessions on Flash vs HTML and a focus in the day two keynote emphasising the importance of both. All of which shows that Adobe has a tricky messaging problem as well; but it is at least addressing it, whereas Microsoft so far is not.

The keynote moved on to Windows Azure, and this is where the real news was centered. Bob Muglia, president of the Server and Tools business, gave a host of announcements on the subject. Azure is getting a Virtual Machine role, which will allow you to upload server images to run on Microsoft’s cloud platform, and to create new virtual machines with full control over how they are configured. Server 2008 R2 is the only supported OS initially, but Server 2003 will follow.

Remote Desktop is also coming to Azure, which will mean instant familiarity for Windows admins and developers.

Another key announcement was Windows Azure Marketplace, where third parties will be able to sell “building block components training, services, and finished services and applications.” This includes DataMarket, the new name for the Dallas project, which is for delivering live data as a service using the odata protocol. An odata library has been added to the Windows Phone 7 SDK, making the two a natural fit.

Microsoft is also migrating Team Foundation Server (TFS) to Azure, interesting both as a case study in moving a complex application, and as a future option for development teams who would rather not wrestle with the complexities of deploying this product.

Next came Windows Azure AppFabric Access Control, which despite its boring name has huge potential. This is about federated identity – both with Active Directory and other identity services. In the example we saw, Facebook was used as an identity provider alongside Microsoft’s own Active Directory, and users got different access rights according to the login they used.

In another guide Azure AppFabric – among the most confusing Microsoft product names ever – is a platform for hosting composite workflow applications.

Java support is improving and Microsoft says that you will be able to run the Java environment of your choice from 2011.

Finally, there is a new “Extra small” option for Azure instances, aimed at developers, priced at $0.05 per compute hour. This is meant to make the platform more affordable for small developers, though if you calculate the cost over a year it still amounts to over $400; not too much perhaps, but still significant.

Attendees were left in no doubt about Microsoft’s commitment to Azure. As for Silverlight, watch this space.

Microsoft lets go of IronPython and IronRuby

Visual Studio corporate VP Jason Zander has announced that IronPython and IronRuby, .NET implementations of popular dynamic languages, are to be handed over to the open source community. This includes add-ons that enable development in Visual Studio, IronPython Tools and IronRuby Tools. Of the two, IronPython is a more mature and usable project.

Why? Here’s a few reflections. For what it must cost Microsoft to maintain these projects, versus the goodwill it earns in the open source world, I would have thought they represent good value and I am surprised to see them abandoned.

On the other hand, it is easy to see that they are not commercial propositions. I’d guess that they were more valuable a few years back, before C# acquired dynamic features, and when dynamic languages were strongly in vogue and Microsoft was keen not to allow .NET to fall behind. To some extent dynamic languages are still in vogue, but we are now well past what is “the peak of inflated expectations” in the Gartner Hype Cycle, and few are likely to abandon .NET because it does not have an official Python or Ruby.

The other reason they are not commercial propositions is that Microsoft has under-invested in them. I recall Martin Fowler at ThoughtWorks telling me that JRuby, an implementation of Ruby for the Java Virtual Machine, is important to their work; it lets them work in a highly productive language, while giving clients the reassurance of running on a trusted and mature platform. JRuby performs very well, but IronRuby is a long way behind. Perhaps if Microsoft had really got behind them, one or both of these language could be equally significant in the .NET world.

The fact that F# rather than IronRuby or IronPython turned up as a fully supported language in Visual Studio 2010 is also significant. After talking to F# leader Don Syme – see the interview here – I understood how F# was important to some of Microsoft’s key customers in the financial world; and I’m guessing that neither Python nor Ruby had that kind of case made for them within the company.

Although it is a shame that Microsoft is withdrawing official support, the clarity of Zander’s statement is better than leaving the projects in limbo. The folk appointed as project leaders are also very capable – Mono guru Miguel de Icaza is on both teams and a great motivator, though it seems unlikely he will have much time to devote to them given his other commitments – and this may actually be good rather than bad news for the projects themselves.

Jim Hugunin, creator of both Jython (Python for Java) and IronPython, is leaving Microsoft for Google, and his farewell is worth a read. He says C# has evolved into a nicer language than Java, but notes:

I like to have a healthy relationship with Open Source code and communities, and I believe that the future lies in the cloud and the web. These things are all possible to do at Microsoft and IronPython is a testament to that. However, making that happen at Microsoft always felt like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – which can be done but only at major cost to both the peg and the hole.

Apple deprecates Java

Apple has deprecated the version of Java that it ports and maintains for OS X:

As of the release of Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3, the version of Java that is ported by Apple, and that ships with Mac OS X, is deprecated.

This means that the Apple-produced runtime will not be maintained at the same level, and may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X. The Java runtime shipping in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, will continue to be supported and maintained through the standard support cycles of those products.

This is not altogether a bad thing for Java. Waiting for Apple to update its official version has been a frustration for Java developers on the Mac. If Oracle now takes responsibility for delivering the JVM for OS X, it may keep in step.

Unfortunately there is not currently an Oracle JVM for OS X. Nor does the open source Apache Harmony support it. In the light of Apple’s announcement I imagine both may address this lack; though a further complication is that IBM has recently abandoned Harmony in favour of the Open JDK.

Further, in making this statement Apple is further discouraging use of Java application on OS X. This announcement should be put together with this one, in the new developer agreement for apps submitted to the forthcoming Mac App Store, a desktop version of the iOS App Store:

3.3.1    Applications may only use public APIs and frameworks included in the default installation of Mac OS X or as bundled with Xcode as provided by Apple, deprecated technologies (such as Java) may not be used.

I doubt Apple will ever attempt to lock down desktop OS X, iPad-style. But I think we will see strong encouragement from Apple steering users towards App Store installs. There will be hints that it is safer and better, the true Mac way to get apps onto your machine.

Remember the early days of Java? One of the reasons it won support was that it reduced the industry’s dependence on a single vendor and its operating system.

Plenty to think about as Apple increases its market share.

[Updated to clarify non-availability of alternative JVMs for OS X]

IBM to harmonise its open source Java efforts with Oracle

IBM’s Bob Sutor, VP of Open Systems and Linux, says in a blog post that the company will now shift its open source Java effort from the unofficial Apache Harmony, to the official Open JDK. The announcement is also covered in an Oracle press release.

Sutor’s post is curious in some ways. He focuses on a long-standing issue, the refusal of Sun and then Oracle to make its testing suite available (TCK – Testing Compatibility Kit) under a suitable license so that users of Harmony could have confidence that its implementation is correct:

We think this is the pragmatic choice. It became clear to us that first Sun and then Oracle were never planning to make the important test and certification tests for Java, the Java SE TCK, available to Apache. We disagreed with this choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK. Our involvement will not be casual as we plan to hold leadership positions and, with the other members of the community, fully expect to have a strong say in how the project is managed and in which technical direction it goes.

We also expect to see some long needed reforms in the JCP, the Java Community Process, to make it more democratic, transparent, and open. IBM and, indeed Oracle, have been lobbying for such transformations for years and we’re pleased to see them happening now. It’s time. Actually, it’s past time.

The interesting question is what has really changed, since the situation with the Java TCK is not new. It reads as if some intense negotiation has been going on behind the scenes, of which this is only part of the outcome. It is not yet clear, for example, exactly what changes are happening to the JCP, which controls the Java specification subject to Oracle’s approval, although Sutor refers to them almost as if they are a done deal.

IBM’s announcement gives a boost to the official Java platform at a time when it is under a cloud, following a JavaOne conference which was run as a sideline to the Oracle OpenWorld event last month, and rumblings of dissatisfaction from the JCP and from Java inventor James Gosling.

Another important player is Google, whose Android operating system uses the Java language but an incompatible virtual machine called Dalvik. IBM’s move will strengthen Oracle’s position as steward of the official Java platform.

This is a blow to Harmony. The current list of contributors  has 31 names, of which 9 are from IBM, 3 from Intel, 1 from Joost, and the others independent. It is a shame to see an important open source project so much at the mercy of corporate politics.

Can Microsoft repeat history and come from behind with Windows Phone 7?

This week is Windows Phone 7 week. Microsoft is announcing details of the launch devices and operators, and I shall be watching and reporting with interest on the joint press conference with CEO Steve Ballmer and AT&T’s Ralph de la Vega.

But how significant is this launch? I think it is of considerable significance. Mobile devices are changing the way we do computing. It is not only that more powerful SmartPhones and tablets are encroaching on territory that used to belong to laptop and desktop computers. We are also seeing new business models based on locked-down devices and over-the-air app stores, and new operating systems, or old ones re-purposed. It is a power shift.

Despite its long years of presence in mobile, it feels like a standing start for Microsoft. A recent, and excellent, free day of training on developing for Windows Phone 7 was only one-third full. Verizon will not be offering the phone, and its president Lowell McAdam suggests that the market belongs RIM, Google and Apple, and that Microsoft’s phones are not innovative or leading edge.

I disagree with McAdam’s assessment. Although I’ve not yet had a chance to try a device for myself, what I have seen so far suggests that it is innovative. While the touch UI does borrow ideas with which we have become familiar thanks to iPhone and Android, the dynamically updating tiles and the hub concept both strike me as distinctive. What McAdam really means is that the phone might not succeed in the market, and such views from someone in his position may be self-fulfilling.

The application development platform is distinctive too, being based on .NET, Silverlight and XNA. I have followed Microsoft’s .NET platform since its earliest days – which as it happens were on Windows Mobile, in the form of the Common Executable Format – and Silverlight seems to me the best incarnation yet of the .NET client. It is lightweight; it performs well; it has a powerful layout language that scales nicely, and it has all sorts of multimedia tricks and effects. Visual Studio and the C# language form a familiar and capable set of tools, supplemented by the admittedly challenging Expression Blend for design.

Still, having a decent product is not always enough. Palm’s webOS devices were widely admired on launch, but that was not enough to rescue the company, or to win more than a tiny market share.

Microsoft has resources that Palm lacked, and a reach that extends from cloud to desktop to device. It may be that Windows Phone 7 has better chances. The problem is that the company’s recent history does not demonstrate the success in coming from behind that characterised its earlier days:

  • Microsoft came from behind with a GUI operating system, even though Windows was inferior to the Mac’s GUI.
  • Microsoft came from behind with Excel versus Lotus 1-2-3.
  • Microsoft came from behind in desktop database managers with Access versus dBase.
  • Microsoft came from behind in networking and then directory services versus Novell and others.
  • Microsoft came from behind with .NET versus Java, which I judge a success even though Java has also prospered.

I am sure there are other examples. Recent efforts though have been less successful. Examples that come to mind include:

  • Internet Explorer – still the most popular web browser, but continues to lose market share, even though Microsoft has been working to regain its momentum since the release of IE7 in 2006.
  • Zune – now a well-liked portable music player, but never came close to catching Apple’s iPod.
  • Silverlight – despite energetic development and strong technology, has done little to disturb the momentum behind Adobe Flash.
  • Tablets – Microsoft was an innovator and evangelist for the slate format, but Apple’s iPad is the first device in this category that has caught on.
  • Numerous examples from Windows Live versus Google and others.

Now here comes Windows Phone 7, with attention to design and usability that is uncharacteristic of Microsoft other than perhaps in Xbox consoles (red light of death aside). In one sense Microsoft can afford for it to fail; it has strong businesses elsewhere. In another sense, if it cannot establish this new product in such a strategic market, it will confirm its declining influence. The upside for the company is that a success with Windows Phone 7 will do a lot to mend its tarnished image.

Oracle versus the JCP as Java’s future is debated

There has always been an uneasy balance between Java as a cross-platform, cross-vendor standard; and Java as a proprietary technology. Under Sun’s stewardship the balance was tilted towards the cross-platform standard. Eventually, Java was open-sourced as the OpenJDK. However, Sun, and therefore now Oracle following its acquisition of Sun, still owns Java. The official Java specification is determined by the optimistically-named Java Community Process (JCP). The JCP is a democratic organisation up to a point, the point in question being clause 5.9 in the JCP procedures:

EC ballots to approve UJSRs for new Platform Edition Specifications or JSRs that propose changes to the Java language, are approved if (a) at least a two-thirds majority of the votes cast are "yes" votes, (b) a minimum of 5 "yes" votes are cast, and (c) Sun casts one of the "yes" votes. Ballots are otherwise rejected.

In other words, nothing happens without Sun’s approval.

Now the Register reports that Oracle and the JCP have fallen out. According to this report, the JCP does not like Oracle’s suit against Google; and does not have confidence in Java FX or Java ME both of which were promoted at the recent OpenWorld/JavaOne conference (though Java FX is to change significantly). The JCP still wants true independence – as, amusingly, proposed by Oracle in 2007:

… that the JCP become an open independent vendor-neutral Standards Organization where all members participate on a level playing field with the following characteristics:

  • members fund development and management expenses
  • a legal entity with by-laws, governing body, membership, etc.
  • a new, simplified IPR Policy that permits the broadest number of implementations
  • stringent compatibility requirements
  • dedicated to promoting the Java programming model

Oracle seems now to have changed its mind, wanting to tighten rather than loosen control over Java. Oracle still needs to work through the JCP in order to progress the Java specification so it will need either to mend relationships or reform the JCP somehow in order to deliver what was promised at JavaOne.

What does this mean for Java and its future? Perhaps surprisingly little. Alex Handy at the sdtimes reports this comment from Rod Johnson, now at VMware, whose SpringSource business was built on building Java frameworks outside the JCP:

There’s been very little activity on the [JCP] executive committee. I think we just have to wait and see what Oracle comes up with for JavaOne," he said. "The rest of the world is moving along fairly quickly. It’s not like we need Oracle or the EC of the JCP to get things done.

Java is the world’s most popular programming language. Further, Oracle is a smart company and although it is doing a good job of alienating members of the Java community – not least inventor James Gosling, now a loose cannon on deck – its technical work on Java will likely be excellent. That said, we are heading into an increasingly fractured world in terms of development platforms, especially in mobile, and that looks unlikely to change.

Latest job stats on technology adoption – Flash, Silverlight, iPhone, Android, C#, Java

It is all very well expressing opinions on which technologies are hot and which are struggling, but what is happening in the real world? It is hard to get an accurate picture – surveys tend to have sampling biases of one kind or another, and vendors rarely release sales figures. I’ve never been happy with the TIOBE approach, counting mentions on the Internet; it is a measure of what is discussed, not what is used.

Another approach is to look at job vacancies. This is not ideal either; the number of vacancies might not be proportionate to the numbers in work, keyword searches are arbitrary and can include false positives and omit relevant ads that happen not to mention the keywords. Still, it is a real-world metric and worth inspecting along with the others. The following table shows figures as of today at indeed.com (for the US) and itjobswatch (for the UK), both of which make it easy to get stats.

Update – for the UK I’ve added both permanent and contract jobs from itjobswatch. I’ve also added C, C++, Python and F#, (which hardly registers). For C I searched Indeed.com for “C programming”.

  Indeed.com (US) itjobswatch (UK permanent) itjobswatch (UK contract)
Java 97,890 17,844 6,919
Flash 52,616 2,288 723
C++ 48,816 8,440 2470
C# 46,708 18,345 5.674
Visual Basic 35,412 3,332 1,061
C 27,195 7,225 3,137
ASP.NET 25,613 10,353 2,628
Python 17,256 1,970 520
Ruby 9,757 968 157
iPhone 7,067 783 335
Silverlight 5,026 2,162 524
Android 4,755 585 164
WPF 4,441 3,088 857
Adobe Flex 2,920 1,143 579
Azure 892 76 5
F# 36 66 1

A few quick comments. First, don’t take the figures too seriously – it’s a quick snapshot of a couple of job sites and there could be all sorts of reasons why the figures are skewed.

Second, there are some surprising differences between the two sites in some cases, particularly for Flash – this may be because indeed.com covers design jobs but itjobswatch not really. The difference for Ruby surprises me, but it is a common word and may be over-stated at Indeed.com.

Third, I noticed that of 892 Azure jobs at Indeed.com, 442 of the vacancies are in Redmond.

Fourth, I struggled to search for Flex at Indeed.com. A search for Flex on its own pulls in plenty of jobs that have nothing to do with Adobe, while narrowing with a second word understates the figure.

The language stats probably mean more than the technology stats. There are plenty of ads that mention C# but don’t regard it as necessary to state “ASP.NET” or “WPF” – but that C# code must be running somewhere.

Conclusions? Well, Java is not dead. Silverlight is not unseating Flash, though it is on the map. iPhone and Android have come from nowhere to become significant platforms, especially in the USA. Beyond that I’m not sure, though I’ll aim to repeat the exercise in six months and see how it changes.

If you have better stats, let me know or comment below.