It may have taken a while, but it appears as if Java 7 will finally become available in the near future. Obstacles such as ownership changes and other delays stood in the way of Java 7's development, but Oracle unveiled the programming language's first release candidate last week. The official launch of Java 7 is expected to take place later this month. To give interested parties a taste of what's to come, Oracle discussed some of Java 7's features during a global event last Thursday.
Mark Reinhold, Oracle's chief architect of the Java platform group, said: "Probably the most significant thing is the fact that we're finally shipping it. It has been almost five years now and for various political and business reasons this release has taken some time." As mentioned, ownership changes were one obstacle that helped delay the release of Java 7. Oracle purchased Sun in 2010 for a cool $7.4 billion. Reinhold credited the shift as one of the factors behind Java's revitalized focus. As with any new release, there are many changes and improvements to look forward to. Java users should not expect anything groundbreaking, however. Reinhold said, "There are significant improvements, but nothing really Earth-shattering.”
One of Java 7's features highlighted by Reinhold was the way in which JSR-203 defines new I/O APIs. "We finally have a real filesystem API that lets you do things like manipulate symbolic links and access filesystem specific operations when you need to do that," he said. Of equal importance is Java 7's new fork/join framework, which Reinhold described as a significant step toward enabling Java for multi-core applications. The framework will allow users to efficiently scale the expression of parallel computations to a random number of processor cores.
Reinhold also noted improvement in the area of Java's development process. He stated: "This is the first release where most of the development was done in the open with OpenJDK. It's true the development process has not been as transparent as we would have liked, but we're improving that."
Java engineer Alex Buckley chimed in on Java 7 as well, particularly in the area of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and how it will have the capability to support items outside of Java's realm. "For the first time in Java 7, we're starting to see the Java Virtual Machine really chart its own course. Features are being added to the JVM that are beyond the capabilities of the core Java programming language."
Lastly, Java 7's awaited release is a perfect example of how competitors can actually come together and collaborate on a project. Oracle joined heads with two of its rivals, IBM and HP, to develop Java 7. IBM Java 7 technical lead Trent Gray-Donald said: "Yes we're absolutely fierce competitors. But it turns out that we can collaborate."
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