Sun unveils new Java release

Sporting Web 2.0 features, Java Standard Edition 6 is touted as the fruit of deep collaboration with Java developers.

Sun Microsystems unveiled the latest release of its Java Standard Edition (SE), after two years of collaboration between its engineers and over 300 external developers.

Jean Elliott, Sun's director of product marketing for the Java platform, told ZDNet Asia that from today, Java SE 6 will be available for free to programmers on the Java developer Web site.

"We're really thrilled with this release, and not just in terms of new features and functionalities," she said. According to Elliott, Java SE 6 is a departure from earlier editions of the platform in several ways.

She noted that it is Sun's first community-developed Java release, where "our engineers have worked with external groups in the Java Community Process (JCP) [and received] a great deal of feedback from the community."

In addition, Java SE 6 is also "very well-rounded with all the services and developer programs that we believe are necessary to help developers be successful in harnessing the full power of the platform", she said.

A Java developer, for instance, can sign up for Sun's free 60-day support. Thereafter, an annual support fee of US$249 will be imposed, according to Elliott.

After Sun shipped Java SE 5 in 2004, the company changed the way it developed Java. Previously, Sun engineers would create the final Java software based on features derived from the JCP, and made binary sources available to programmers only after development has completed, Elliott said.

"But we decided to move to a more transparent development model, where we could engage more fully with the Java community," she said. She added that this was in response to requests from developers who wanted to test their applications on pre-released versions of Java.

"So, in the fall of 2004, we made the binary sources available to developers every week," Elliott said. "We also received more feedback than [we did with] any other release."

To ensure Java SE 6 is well-received by the enterprise community, Sun also engaged more than 160 companies in a compatibility and performance program, allowing these organizations to test applications written for previous editions of the platform, on Java SE 6.

Move over to Web 2.0
With the surging popularity of Web 2.0 applications, Sun is also sparing no effort to raise the profile of the Java platform among developers. In Java SE 6, Elliott said Java developers would be able to take advantage of scripting languages to create Web 2.0 applications.

Elliott explained that scripting languages are useful in developing applications quickly and for prototyping. "This release includes a framework that can be used to host scripting engines in Java applications," she said. Java SE 6 comes with the Rhino scripting engine.

Elliott said Web services support has also been boosted in Java SE 6, which now includes the latest Web services specifications such as the Java API for XML Web Services (JAX-WS) 2.0.

"The Web services area really highlights one of the things that has gone very well compared to other releases, because of our collaboration with Microsoft," she said.

"Both Microsoft and Sun are committed [to Web services] because they want to make sure the .Net and Java stacks can interoperate well," she explained.

Application diagnostics is another area that has been beefed up in Java SE 6. Although developers can use tools to monitor application performance in a development environment, there are restrictions in using the same tools once the applications are deployed, Elliott said.

"In this new release, developers can dynamically attach the monitoring and management tools to the running application to do the diagnostics," she said.

Last month, Sun announced it will license open source Java under version 2 of the General Public License (GPL), and released the source codes of JavaC compiler and Java Hotspot Virtual Machine--key components of Java SE.