The Macintosh has always been unique in terms of software, ever since it came out in 1984. From the now almost disappeared ‘Resource Fork’ of MFS/HFS, the pascal slant of Mac OS releases up until the early 1990s, the multiple architectural and design transitions, the Carbon/Cocoa duality of early Mac OS X, ‘Classic’ and ‘Rosetta’, the irrelevant HIG, to the numerous, continuous self-contradicting choices that Apple has kept making throughout its development in the past twelve or so years that Jobs and Co. returned to Cupertino.
Apple has, ever since the mid-1990s had decent support for Java on its platform. For a long time the company has provided its own versions of the JRE/JDK. When Mac OS X came out the reason was simple: Sun wasn’t going to do it, it was already burdened with a number of versions and the post-bubble era was a tough time for the company, so Macintosh support was out of the question. In the early years of Mac OS, say until 2004, Java was a rising star in the OS X community; Apple was doing an relatively good job providing recent-enough versions of the JRE/JDK for its computers and most people were happy. The ‘Java bridge’ and the nascent — for Macheads that is; the technology was much older and extremely well-designed, for its time — Cocoa framework allowed beautiful, usable rich Java applications to be written for OS X, at a time when SWT was somewhat immature and Swing was, well.. Swing.
Then some people at Apple decided that Objective-C was worth a revamp, it started working on Objective-C 2.0, which gave ‘managed code’ a new meaning among Mac developers, and — in the process — dropped the Java bridge; Jobs didn’t want people to code rich Java apps with Cocoa widgets on the Mac anymore, in the same way he didn’t want anyone to keep writing (let alone start writing) applications using the Carbon framework. Cocoa and Objective-C was the way.
The end of quasi-decent Java on the Mac was heading our way at breakneck speeds, but few would expect that Apple would stop providing newer versions of Java for its computers, without someone else picking up the task of doing so. Or would they?
The greatest news for the project-formerly-known-as OpenOffice.org, since it became free software a decade ago. Let’s hope that the new maintainers/leaders of the project and the commercial ‘supporters’ listed on the web site will make LibreOffice a worthy competitor in the age of cloud computing, SaaS and Google’s impending dominance (viz. Google Apps) of the market.
This is probably one of the worst conclusions to a saga that lasted for several years and was followed closely by so many people; yes, it’s true that Sun has been slowly, but steadily, disappearing from the radar as a major player in this industry, but it has also continued to innovate all the while it tried to determine its relationship to Open Source, and by extension how it was going to survive in this Great Open World.
Similarly, Oracle has been a company that — similarly to Sun — thrived on proprietary, dominant solutions while Open Source competition gradually eroded its dominance; look at how many of the world’s most popular sites are powered by MySQL and you’ll see why for some — and increasingly many — needs an Oracle licence is now completely pointless. Yet contrary to Sun Microsystems, Oracle has maintained a profitable business as large enterprises maintained their custom.