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Review/Preview: 2006 and 2007 in Java
Pages: 1, 2

Beyond the Sun

2006: BD-J makes a splash as part of Blu-Ray
2007: If Blu-Ray crashes and burns, will it take BD-J with it?

One novel use of Java ME is to provide the interactivity platform of the Blu-Ray Disc standard, one of two competing formats for high-definition movie systems (the other being HD-DVD). The standard includes the Java-based "BD-J" environment, which marries Java ME with some APIs borrowed from interactive television, to provide highly interactive menus and other potentially novel content, including network access from movie discs. Blu-Ray backers point out that the standard needs more compelling interactivity than is provided by DVDs as a distinguishing feature to help the format succeed; just having a clearer picture isn't enough to get people to switch.

But will it work? Blu-Ray's main proponent, Sony, has had a miserable track record in the press recently, between its rootkit and exploding battery fiascoes. Making Blu-Ray part of the PlayStation 3 was meant to be a boost to the standard, but instead it may actually be hurting the PS3, as gamers blame Blu-Ray for increasing the price and slowing production of the PS3. Worse for BD-J, Sony's first standalone Blu-Ray player doesn't actually support BD-J , with Sony saying that BD-J functionality will be provided in a 2007 firmware update.

Earlier this year, your editor went to a JavaOne session on Blu-Ray in hopes of getting information on developing for BD-J, and came away deeply disappointed. Now that Blu-Ray's presumed success is no longer a fait accompli, the question of whether developers can get a BD-J SDK without paying enormous license fees may not even matter.

2006: Eclipse Callisto offers ten simultaneous releases
2007: What's succeeding other than the IDE?

All indications are that the Eclipse IDE remains the top choice for Java development. But Eclipse is much more than an IDE. The Eclipse developers reminded everyone of that with this summer's Callisto release, the simultaneous drop of ten different Eclipse foundation projects.

Having said that, it remains to be seen just how much success Eclipse can muster beyond the IDE. The building blocks of Eclipse can be used to create rich client applications, in the form of the Rich Client Platform (RCP), but it's not clear how many developers have adopted this model. Eclipse's Standard Widget Toolkit (SWT) was supposed to be the answer to the problems of Swing, but after years of development, it seems as common in the wild as Swing--that is to say, not very. The rival widget toolkits can each claim credit for one IDE (Eclipse and NetBeans), one file-sharing program (Azareus and LimeWire), and not much else. Will 2007 be the year SWT lands on the desktop in a big way, or are it and Swing big ducks in a small pond?

2006: Google releases GWT
2007: Is GWT the new face of Ajax?

Introduced at JavaOne 2006, Google Web Toolkit offers an audacious and unexpected approach to writing Ajax applications: you write Java code with UI objects not unlike those of the Swing and SWT frameworks, and GWT will compile it into client-side JavaScript, handling all the various browser compatibility miseries for you. There's immense potential to spare developers from low-level JavaScript debugging, but it will be interesting to see if developers are willing to cede so much control to their framework, or if they will insist on hand-rolling their own client and server code.

2006: Google deprecates SOAP search API
2007: Is this the beginning of the end of SOAP?

Just this week, InfoQ noted Google's deprecation of its SOAP Search API, in favor of an Ajax-oriented alternative that's better suited for client-side use than server-side. O'Reilly Radar blogger Brady Forrest called it a "a unilateral move that is going to alienate at least some of the Google dev community and lead to defections to other services," and worried about the effect on web services as a whole, since it was in many ways the canonical web service. Steve Loughran goes further, calling it The end of SOAP, and shedding few tears: "it won't happen at once, it won't be overnight, but one day SOAP will be over. We will look back and wonder 'what were we thinking?'. It will be up there with ActiveX, EJB2, and other things that we will describe as mistakes that should never have made it past the powerpoint stage."


2006: JSR 306 proposed to reform JCP
2007: Can the JCP make all the people happy?

JCP 306 was approved in August, under the daunting title "Towards a new version of the JCP." Among its goals are improving the transparency of the Java Community Process, improving the involvement of individuals, and optimizing the duration of JSRs. Also in its charter are possible changes to improve working with other standards bodies, working with non-Java implementations, easing migration of existing technology into JSRs, and making TCK and licensing information available upon conclusion of a JSR.

The expert group's early draft review was tentatively scheduled for this month, with a public draft review in February 2007, a final draft in April, and the final approval ballot in May. This proposal needs to pass both the SE/EE and ME executive committees, and it's sure to get a close look, particularly following the criticism JSR 277 received from OSGi and others who've worked on problems similar to 277's "Java Module System."

2006: Java book sales continue to decline
2007: What's declining, Java or books?

In his most recent survey of the State of the Computer Book Market, Tim O'Reilly notes the continued slide of Java book sales, down 15 percent in the last run of the stats. He writes:

The decline of Java book sales has accelerated, while C# books have continued their steady increase. When you aggregate books on both C# ".Net Languages" (books that cover both C# and VB.Net), the C# book market is now about 12% larger than Java. (Of course, some of those .Net Languages book purchasers could be buying them for their coverage of VB.)

Perhaps it's not surprising that 2005 would have moved more books in support of the language changes in Java SE 5, and that 2006 would be slower with no such changes in SE 6. That said, the Java book market is an odd beast; few titles can be relevant to all Java programmers, and the various topic niches and programming frameworks may be too small to support books on them. How many Java web frameworks are there, and how many have enough of a professional following to sell a lot of $40 books? It's possible that the future of Java content may be in different forms, like the O'Reilly Short Cuts PDFs, or online articles like those here on ONJava and java.net.

Your Turn

So that's a brief overview of some of the 2006's most prominent Java happenings, and what you might look for in 2007. But what do you think? What's happening in Java from your point of view, and what should we be looking at next year? What did we cover too much on ONJava this year, and what would you rather see covered more in 2007?

To finish out this year-ender, let's hand it over to you, the readership. In the Comments section below, please let us know what matters to you as Java developers, and how ONJava can help you make the most of the opportunities that Java provides.

But one last thing before the comment block begins: thanks for reading this year. See you in 2007.

Chris Adamson is an author, editor, and developer specializing in iPhone and Mac.

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