Java at the brink of a new decade – what is in store for it under the Microsoft banner?


Times are changing, but Java remains the most popular programming language. Despite the fact, that it is being chased by JavaScript, which at times, achieves even the first place in rankings, the forecasts that have been repeated continuously for numerous years, regarding the soon to come departure of Java, can be thrown out the windows. Particularly, as there are numerous events that suggest that Java has a very powerful advocate – Microsoft.

Java – what is in store for it in the years to come?

The Java platform is without a doubt one of the most ambitious realisations of a dream, which has accompanied us since the moment of the popularisation of personal computers. A direct need existed, to develop such a programming language and a launch environment, that would we able to work above the divisions of operating systems, and system configurations, on PCs, servers, as well as, mobile devices.

The plan was – at least partially – realised, and with successes. At least in terms of portability and interoperability, no one was able to create something that would be more efficient than Java in this particular specialty. For example, the attempts to port the browser technologies to the desktop, such as Adobe AIR, or, lately the JavaScript Node.js and Electron frameworks cannot be considered a success. Despite having its flaws, Java remains unchallenged in terms of universality and interoperability.

However, that does not mean that this state will remain forever. A strong candidate for the successor of Java is WebAssembly, allowing to execute low-level binary code in browsers, as well as – by means of the WebAssembly System Interface (WASI) associating i.a. Mozilla, Intel or Red Hat from the Bytecode Alliance initiative – in the operating system environment. One should particularly follow the development of the Wasmtime, Lucet or WAMR environments.

However, before WASI will become popular enough, much time will pass. Also, one cannot omit the fact, that according to the scientists from the Technical University in Braunschweig, even half of the domains using WebAssembly already, are using it to distribute malware. One cannot speak of the fading of Java into obscurity, even if its popularity is falling slightly. We still do not possess something as universal as Java. Additionally, it is just one of the reasons.

Java under the Microsoft banner

Another reason is the interest in the development of Java, displayed by the largest producer of software in the world, who, with increased dare, is competing against Amazon on the cloud services market. Obviously, we are talking about Microsoft, who during more than a dozen months took a number of measures in order to take the development and maintaining of Java under as much care as possible. Obviously, the corporation is not doing it pro bono – the main beneficiary of the results of such involvement, will be the growing portfolio of Azure.

2019 was key in the process of the involvement of Microsoft in the development of Java, however, already in 2018, the corporation had begun to invest in OpenJDK – a free and open implementation of Java, first made available through Oracle in 2008. In August 2019, Microsoft announced the acquisition of jClarity, a co-founder of AdoptOpenJDK – a company, which contribution to the optimisation of the free implementation of Java cannot be overestimated. Simultaneously, Microsoft itself, committed its assets to the perfection of the AdoptOpenJDK and free implementations of Java in general.

It was enough for the commentators, to claim that, in the nearest future, Microsoft will play the key role in the development of the platform and the Java language itself. One should not wonder about it, as it will have direct consequences for the development of Microsoft Azure. Here, one cannot omit the fact, that in the past fiscal year, an absolutely record one in the 40 year history of Microsoft to be honest, the income generated by Azure, was for the first time higher than the figures earned by Microsoft through Windows.

Microsoft as the new IBM?

The corporation led by Satya Nadella seems to take the position, that for years belonged to IBM. Big Blue is the author of the Eclipse, still leading integrated programming environment for Java. Additionally, the hypotheses, that if not for the Oracle offer, IBM would acquire Sun Microsystems, and become the manager of the solely proprietary platform, are no exaggeration. However, currently we already have OpenJDK, which makes the issue of the leadership more blurry.

The thing is, that the new Microsoft – the one in love with Linux, the one reaching out to the developers and listening to the community – is doing quite well in a world, where open source had become the victor. However, IBM acquired Red Hat, but we are still far from defining Big Blue as a corporation enthusiastic towards free software, and such a label seems to already hold to Microsoft. The contribution to OpenJDK, AdoptOpenJDK and the acquisition of jClarity can only confirm this hypothesis.

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