Java on desktop pondered

While Java may not be the first platform people think of when it comes to desktop computing, it nonetheless has a presence, according to James Gosling, who holds the title of vice president and fellow at Sun Microsystems Inc. and who was instrumental in the development of Java.

Java been extremely successful on servers and elsewhere, but there has been a "perception that Java is dead on the desktop," said Gosling, during a keynote presentation here at the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference.

But Java is being used on desktops in IT departments and universities and it is even available shrink-wrapped in stores, he said.

Part of the problem with Java's desktop image arose from the way it was launched, with an incompatibility problem arising for applets on the Netscape and Microsoft platforms, Gosling said.

Windows has overshadowed Java on the desktop, Gosling acknowledged. Microsoft provided tools that developers have ended up being forced to use to build desktop software, he said.

"And, for lots of desktop developers [Windows] was the only market that actually mattered," Gosling said. "That is, I think, deeply tragic."

But alternatives to Windows have arisen, in Linux and Mac OS X, he added.

Gosling provided attendees with a multitude of reasons for using Java. The language, Gosling stressed, has a large API set. The platform also fosters developer productivity, has tools, reliability, and security, according to Gosling.

Java, he said, has "tight memory and really treats interfaces as contracts that you can't violate."

Additionally, Java has a central API for writing desktop applications, called Swing, Gosling said.

An attendee at Gosling's presentation said he would be willing to try out Java.

"It's an interesting language," with its virtual machines for deploying Java applications, said Bryan Lockwood, president of Lockwood Language Studios, a Westwood, Mass., vendor of language learning methodologies.

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