Java Turns 10

May 23, 2005

Sean Michael Kerner

Several milestones along the way helped propel it to success and spawn a Java economy that extends far beyond its birthplace at Sun.

The official Java announcement was made at the SunWorld Conference where the company referred to it as "a revolutionary new object-oriented programming environment for the Internet."

The first press release heralded Java as "the first language to provide a comprehensive solution to the challenges of programming for the Internet, providing portability, security, advanced networking and robustness without compromising performance."

Java Technology is Everywhere

Fast-forward 10 years, and Sun says "Java technology is everywhere." More than 825 million Java-enabled smart cards have been issued. Java is also a key player in the mobile space with 579 million Java-enabled mobile devices shipped. On the desktop, Sun claims that there are more than 650 million desktops with Java software.

On the development side there are 4.5 million Java developers and 22 Java-compatible application servers.

Though Java has enjoyed great success over the last 10 years, it's not necessarily the most pervasive programming language of the last decade.

"It's difficult to declare Java as the most pervasive programming language in the last 10 years given the strength of Microsoft's C-based offerings," Evans Data analyst John Andrews told

Andrews thinks it might be possible to call Java the most pervasive programming language in the last five years, but there would still be some debate.

Mark Herring, director of Java brand marketing at Sun, said emergence of Java has given IT two major competing platforms, Java and .NET. Herring characterized .NET as being offered by a single vendor (Microsoft) while in contrast the Java platform is offered by Sun, IBM, BEA, JBoss and others who all compete for their share of implementations.

"Java Community Process (JCP) meetings are all about working on creating the standard, but then we go and ferociously compete against other on the implementation.," Herring said.

Why Java has Succeeded

There are a number of elements that have made Java successful. According to Marc Fleury CEO of JBoss, portability, the ability to write once and run anywhere, is one of the most crucial.

"Server-side environments needed a standard platform that would abstract the operating system platform allowing deployments to choose their runtime operating system independently of the development," Fleury told

Michael S. Sawicki, OptimalJ Product Manager at Compuware, thought that "community" has been critical to the success of Java even more than portability.

"When Java touted the idea to 'write once, run anywhere,' there were many vendors that were describing the concept, but they were not very good at implementing it," Sawicki said. "The community process gave a very large and talented audience (individuals and corporations) an opportunity to innovate and invent. This community continues to push Java forward. The strength is in the synergy that the community process evokes."

Bill Roth VP Product Marketing at BEA similarly noted that Java had been successful because of the process of bringing people together to agree on standards and yet concede on implementation.


Java's great promise of application portability is held together by the Java community's commitment to compatibility, Sun's Herring said. Compatibility also happens to be one of the great challenges.

"For IT developers it's important to make them aware how important compatibility is," Herring said. Compatibility across Java is important to ensure that there is no vendor lock-in he explained.

Herring does not necessarily see .NET as a platform and other like language like PHP as threats to Java.

"It's a mixed environment it's not going to be a Java or a .NET world," Herring said. "We think it's going to be an 'and' world and we think that Java is well-suited for that world."

The Next 10 Years

Looking ahead, Compuware's Sawicki expects that Java "the language" and the attendant specifications will continue evolving.

"The evolution will mean that the entire Java development ecosystem will grow stronger. But as in any evolution you can expect that complexity will add some bumps along the way," Sawicki said. "There will be demands from the community for easier ways to use and implement Java."

JBoss Vice President of Product Management Pierre Fricke also expects ease of use to improve.

"Java and J2EE, in particular, will become an easier, more friendly programming environment with EJB 3 and Hibernate," Fricke told "We'll see easier and standardized integration with JBI. We will see commercial app servers concentrate in the ultra high end, much like mainframe hardware does today."

Bill Roth VP Product Marketing at BEA expects that the Java platform will remain a leading-edge vital force over at least the next five years. Roth expects that other languages will grow, specifically Web application and business process languages, however they'll run on the Java platform.

"The key will be to keep the core Java language strong and stable, and to allow the Java platform to be accommodative of various other languages and libraries," Roth said. "At some point, the limitations of the Java VM architecture might become too serious, but whatever new challenger VM comes on the scene, it will have to be awfully good to displace the Java platform."

This article appears courtesy of


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