Apple hints no Java in Lion's tank

Scant months since beginning a public spat with Adobe over its decision not to support Flash on iOS devices, Apple now also appears ready to abandon Java in Mac OS X.

Apple today introduced its Java for Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6 update. The update offers improved reliability, security, and compatibility, the company explains.

A related note at Apple's Mac OS X Reference Library tells us that the company has also "deprecated" Java in OS X.

"As of the release of Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3, the version of Java that is ported by Apple, and that ships with Mac OS X, is deprecated.

"This means that the Apple-produced runtime will not be maintained at the same level, and may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X. The Java runtime shipping in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, will continue to be supported and maintained through the standard support cycles of those products."

Apple's new Mac App Store Review Guidelines warn that applications using deprecated or optionally installed technologies will be rejected by the App Store approvals team. (As noted by PC Pro).

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This suggests that developers building applications for sale via Apple's newly-introduced Mac App Store must abandon Java components in their software. Apple will open the Mac App Store next month, though it announced the service as a hot new feature of Mac OS X 10.7 yesterday.

OS News notes that Apple creates its own Java runtime and that is the component that's on the way out, and "may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X."

This move to deprecate Java comes as Apple's newly-introduced MacBook Air notebooks are seen to ship without Adobe Flash Player pre-installed.

This has led some Apple watchers to speculate Apple will no longer pre-install Flash on any of its Macs.

Given that the company has attracted criticism in the past for shipping its Macs with older versions of Flash installed, it makes a degree of sense to encourage Mac users wanting to use Adobe's multimedia software to endure the latter company's cumbersome installation process, if only to ensure they have the latest and most secure version installed.

I can only speculate as to why Apple's moved to deprecate Java in OS X. The explanation could be the security issues which are beginning to plague the veteran standard.

Microsoft recently warned that Java has now surpassed Adobe applications as the most attacked software package, with researchers warning of an "unprecedented wave of Java exploitation".

Apple has been criticized in the past for its laggardly approach to issuing Java security patches.

"In general Apple has been a little slower to apply upstream security updates in Java. Whenever basically they're lagging behind a vulnerability that's out and known, it's pretty significant. Potential hackers don't have to discover anything new; they can use a vulnerability that's already released," said Dino Dai Zovi, co-author of The Mac Hacker's Handbook and a security researcher last year.

Perhaps Apple's simply moving to bow to the inevitable: Java has achieved far less success in the market than Oracle had hoped. Like Flash, perhaps the standard has been superceded by other rising technologies.

Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Apple intends abandoning Java support in Mac OS X 10.7, Lion, which the company announced yesterday.

This may reflect an industry trend, as Computerworld's own Michael Horowitz notes in 'Java: Should it stay or should it go?'

UPDATE: Since this item was posted, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has reportedly issued the following statement:

"Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms. They have their own release schedules, which are almost always different than ours, so the Java we ship is always a version behind. This may not be the best way to do it."

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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