Oracle is taking such lengths to control Java's future that companies need to start looking at alternatives such as .NET, Platform-as-a-Service and the Open Web.
OpenJDK is not fully open. OpenJDK is covered by a General Public license (GPl), and though it's certainly true that there are alternative Jvm implementations and derivatives out there, OpenJDK is not open in spirit: it's practically impossible to distribute an alternative implementation without Oracle's sanction -- specifically without a grant of the Java TcK. Losing The Apache Software Foundation as a supporter also hurts Oracle's credibility as a partner with the Java alpha geeks who drive so much independent and discontinuous Java innovation. Those developers will take their energy elsewhere, probably to Apache projects.
That points to a significant shift that will drive young developers away from the Java platform. In the short term, the impact will not be significant. But in the long term, Forrester states that "application development will shift to more-productive 'metadata programming' environments and/or Java frameworks (e.g., Google Web Toolkit, JBoss Hibernate, Ruby on Rails or SpringSource Grails, and SpringSource Spring MVC or Spring Roo)."
Forrester's authors say that its report, "The Future of Java," is not a Java obituary. Java is still dominant in the enterprise but no programming language has retained a central position through multiple platform changes. Java will evolve just as Assembler, C and COBOL did. More so, the core message here is for application developers and how applications are distributed.
Oracle has made steps to ease the concerns of customers. It has provided better oversight than Sun ever did. And it came to an agreement with IBM last Fall. But Oracle has failed to address Java's inherent complexity, which remains its biggest problem in head-to-head competitions with Microsoft's.NET platform.
Java is also a controlled top-down innovation model which does not jive with the cloud generation of platforms, Web and Mobile apps and the variety of modern languages such as Ruby.
That points to the developer interest in PaaS environments and open Web efforts such as LAMP and HTML 5. It will take a full ten years for the shift to occur. In the meantime, Oracle and its close partners will take a slow approach to adopting disruptive technologies. That could mean an overall dampening of innovation.
Forrester predicts five outcomes for Java under Oracle's control:
- Oracle will manage Java to serve the enterprise first.
- OpenJDK will be the only Java runtime available under an open source license.
- Oracle will govern Java via an oligarchy, perhaps a duopoly with IBM and other powers such as Red Hat.
- Oracle and partners will seek a comeback for Java EE, which is being displaced increasingly by the Spring framework.
- Oracle will generate more revenue from mobile devices.
The report goes into greater detail on topics such as what questions customers should be considering about Java and what it means for the enterprise. Forrester does a lot of comparison to .NET, stating that it will likely see a greater popularity due to its price and ease of use.
Oracle controls the future of Java but its road map has been accepted and that means no major disruptions for enterprise customers. But it's clear that Java is no longer the center for technology innovation. The innovation is now on the platforms and with Ruby and open environments such as HTML 5.