I already wrote a few words on the Oracle/Google lawsuits here and here, and I would like to thank all those that found them interesting enough to read and comment on. I found recently a very interesting post by Java author extraordinaire, James Gosling, where he answers on some of his readers’ comments. In the post there are many interesting ideas, and a few points that I believe are not totally accurate – or better, may be explained in a different way. In particular, I believe that the role of Java in the enterprise will remain and will become “legacy”, that is stable, plain and boring, while the real evolution will move from Java to… something else.
James clearly points out the fact that JavaME fragmentation was a substantial hurdle for developers, and believes that in a lesser way this may be true for Android as well. While it is true that fragmentation was a problem for Java on mobile, this was a common aspect of mobile development at the time (go ask a Windows Mobile developer about fragmentation. And see a grown man cry, as the song says). The problem of JavaME was not fragmentation, but lack of movement – the basic toolkits, the UI components, most of the libraries for one reason or the other remained largely unchanged apart a few bug fixes. JavaFX should have been promoted much, much earlier, and would have had a great impact on software development, like (I believe) the more recent Qt releases from Nokia and their idea of declarative user interfaces.
If we compare with the rest of Java, we see a much stronger push towards adding libraries, components, functionalities: all things that made Java one of the best choices for software developers in the enterprise space, because the developers can trust Sun to update and extend their platform, making their job easier and faster. It was the same approach that made Microsoft the king of software: create lots of tools and libraries for developers, sometimes even trying to push more than one approach at a time to see what sticks (like Fahrenheit) , or trying very experimental and skunkworks approach, that later are turned into more mature projects (like WinG). JavaEE and JavaSE followed the same model, with a consistent stream of additions and updates that created a confidence in developers – and, despite all the naysayers, for enterprise software Java was portable with very little effort, even for very large applications.
JavaME was not so lucky, and partly to guarantee uniform licensing Sun was forced to do everything on their own (a striking difference with Android, that – if you check the source code – included tons of external open source projects inside) limiting the rate of growth attainable. Some features that now we take for granted (like web browsing) were not included as default, or implemented by vendors in inconsistent way because Sun never gave guidance on the roadmap and product evolution; multimedia has been mostly an afterthought, usually forcing developers to create (or buy) external libraries to implement anything more complex than a video or audio player. As I wrote before: JavaFX should have been announced much, much earlier, and not as a reactive answer to the competition, but as part of a long-term roadmap that JavaEE had, while the rest of Java missed.
This is, in my opinion, one of the real reasons for the lawsuit: Sun (now Oracle) was unable to create and maintain a real roadmap outside of JavaEE (and partly JavaSE), and especially for JavaME they constantly followed – never led. This, as any developer will tell you, is never a good position; it’s full of dust and you miss all the scenery. So, since Oracle is really more interested in their own markets (the DB and the applications) and not really caring about software developers, ecosystems or openness, they probably believe that lawsuits do have a better return on investment.