Sun goes multilingual with Java SE 6

The latest version of Java SE will support other scripting languages

Over two years in the making, Sun is releasing the latest version of its Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE) software, placing particular emphasis on the application development platform's support for other scripting languages.

Java SE 6 is the first version of the software where developers will be able to mix Java technology with other languages such as PHP, Python, Ruby and JavaScript.

"Going multilingual is a big theme of this release," Sun's chief engineer for Java SE, Mark Reinhold, said. "Sun's approach used to be: 'Java is the solution, what's your problem?'" However, it's since become clear to Sun that developers want to use other languages in conjunction with Java to create hybrid applications. Sun has created a collection of scripting engines on its Web site and Java SE 6 includes a preconfigured version of Mozilla's open-source Rhino JavaScript engine.

"Java SE 6 is an extremely significant release for us," Sun's senior director of Java platform product marketing, Jean Elliott, said. She drew particular attention to community participation in the platform's development. For the first time, hundreds of non-Sun developers had some input into the Java SE development process, beginning in September 2004 as Sun released Java SE 5.

One particular area where developers influenced the final version of the platform was their request that an add-on for Sun's NetBeans Java integrated development environment be included in Java SE 6, Reinhold said. So, the new platform featured a new layout manager component based on NetBeans GUI Builder formerly known as Matisse.

Working more closely with external developers and enabling more than 160 third-party software vendors to test their Java-based applications on pre-release builds of the Java SE 6 platform should result in more rapid adoption of the new software, Elliott said.

"We expect the transition from Java SE 5 to 6 be very easy because of the focus we put on compatibility," she added.

Software analyst with RedMonk, Michael Cote, thought it could take developers up to a year or more to adopt Java SE 6.

"Some teams will work it into their next release cycle, others will take several cycles to evaluate it, while others will have to wait on their applications server vendors to update to 6," he wrote in an email interview.

Sun's done a lot of work around the Java HotSpot virtual machine and garbage collection to ensure that Java SE provides good out-of-box performance, Reinhold said. The vendor has also spent time significantly improving tools within Java SE 6 aimed at diagnosing, managing and monitoring application development.

Java SE 6 comes with improved support for Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, the business release of which made its debut late last month. Sun did have to engage in "some difficult workarounds" with pre-release versions of Vista, but Reinhold said that such issues were no longer a problem when integrating Java SE 6 with the application programming interfaces contained in the final shipping version of the Microsoft OS.

Some of the joint engineering work Microsoft and Sun have done as part of interoperability effort Project Tango appears in Java SE 6's support for new Web services APIs such as the Java API for XML Web Services (JAX-WS) 2.0, he said.

"There's a very clear message from Sun's customers: 'You need to work with Microsoft,'" Reinhold said.

When the full-blown open-source version of Java SE known as OpenJDK Project appears in March next year, it will include all the new functionality of Java SE 6, according to Elliott.

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