Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Java Closes One Door, Opens another

The last public security patch for Java 6 comes out February 19, 2013, marking an important turning point for Oracle. Java 6 was developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle bought out for a purported $7.4 billion in 2011. Java 7, in contrast, is the first edition of Java released by Oracle. With Java 6 retired, Oracle cuts the program’s last ties to its parent company.

To be totally fair, Java 6 enjoyed a longer life than previous editions. The final public patch was originally scheduled for July 2012, and then bumped back to November 2012. Despite these two reprieves, it looks like the end is finally in sight.

Life after Retirement  

The final security patch serves as a warning to consumers and businesses. Oracle continues to provide security patches to enterprises with support plans after a final public patch, but for those of us without support plans, it's time to consider switching to Java 7.

Sure, in theory you could continue to use Java 6, but without the safety net of security updates you're asking for trouble. Old and retired programs attract hackers and malware like hyenas circling an injured antelope. Both sets of scavengers know their preys' defenses are down.

If you’re looking to update to Java 7, do so before June 18, 2013. The date marks the first major patch for the new system. (Don't get me started on Oracle's ironclad update schedule; in my mind, patches should be released when they're needed, rather than on a fixed timetable. Emergency response teams and drug rehab centers offer protection and help when it's most needed. To my mind, security patches are the virtual equivalent).

Looking Past Java 7

Oracle isn't resting on its laurels with Java 7. The company released previews of Java 8 for ARM in December of 2012. The preview adds the Java FX rich media platform to Oracle's ARM offerings.

The inclusion of Java FX is both a wise and necessary move. Google's Android system currently dominates the market. The two systems have many similarities, so much so that Oracle launched an unsuccessful copyright infringement suit against Android.

The failed lawsuit didn’t help Oracle loosen Android's control of the ARM market. Nor can Oracle afford to ignore the booming mobile market. By including Java FX in Java 8, Oracle may be able to compete head-to-head with Android.

Oracle needs to fight this war, but it's facing some serious obstacles. The similarities between Android and Java led to many Java app developers switching camps to create software using the Dalvik Android virtual machine. And as noted above, Android has established presence in the ARM market.

Oracle needs to carve out some mobile territory for itself. And that's going to be a nasty fight.

Carl is a writer who enjoys blogging about anything and everything that crosses his mind. He’s constantly striving to strengthen his writing skills and is continuously grateful that the Internet allows him to share his thoughts with the world.