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Apple to contribute to open source Java for Mac

Last month, Apple caused a tremor in the Java community by announcing it had officially deprecated the Java runtime including in Mac OS X, and warned developers that Java might not be present in future versions of Mac OS X, casting uncertainty over Java’s future on the Mac. Now, Apple and Oracle are moving to allay those fears: the companies have announced a new OpenJDK project for Mac OS X that will make a Java SE 7 implementation available for Mac OS X as an open source project. As an interim measure, Apple is assuring that its current Java SE 6 will continue to be available for both Mac OS X 10.6 “Snow Leopard” and the upcoming Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion,” due in mid-2011.

“We are excited to welcome Apple as a significant contributor in the growing OpenJDK community,” said Oracle senior VP of development Hasan Rizvi, in a statement. “The availability of Java on Mac OS X plays a key role in the cross-platform promise of the Java platform. The Java developer community can rest assured that the leading edge Java environment will continue to be available on Mac OS X in the future.”

Apple will be doing most of the heavy lifting, at least initially, contributing a boatload of technology it developed for the Java runtime currently included in Mac OS X—that includes both 32- and 64-bit Java virtual machines, a networking stack, class libraries, and the guts of a new graphical client. But that’s where Apple’s official involvement ends: the company is essentially handing over everything it has to the open source community, then washing its hands of Java development.

The move will also absolve Apple of distributing updates to Java—including security patches. In the announcement, Apple senior VP of software engineering Bertrand Serlet noted, “The best way for our users to always have the most up to date and secure version of Java will be to get it directly from Oracle.” That’s a tack very similar to the stance Apple is developing in regard to the Adobe Flash platform. Apple is not shipping Flash with its newest MacBook Air computers, and the platform was responsible for a sizable portion of security issues plugged in Apple’s latest Mac OS X update.

No timeframe has been given for availability of development or official releases of a OpenJDK Java SE 7 implementation for Mac OS X.

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