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4 reasons to stick with Java -- and 4 reasons to dump it

Paul Krill | Oct. 1, 2014
The enterprise mainstay has proved resilient in the face of many challenges -- but just how long can it remain a premier programming language?

Sure, events on the security front have quieted down for Java lately, but the damage to its reputation is already done.

Challenge: The competition keeps getting stiffer
When Java first arrived in 1995, it was trendy, with its JVM offering portability across hardware platforms. These days, the hottest language is undoubtedly JavaScript, largely due to the ascendency of Web development and the advent of Node.js, which empowered JavaScript developers to run their code on the server.

Other languages such as Python and PHP cemented their reputations in the years following Java's initial rise, and they still boast their share of devotees. Up-and-coming languages such as Google's Go and Apple's Swift also grab their share of the headlines, taking buzz away from Java.

"It is true that Java is not as popular on a relative basis as it once was, simply because it has far more competition today, but it is still enormously popular," O'Grady says.

Challenge: Android may be a double-edged sword for Java
Though Android leverages Java, it's a variation of Java, as InfoWorld's Martin Heller points out.

"Android Java is not exactly the same as server Java, especially when you look at the libraries," he says.

Litigation over Java's use on Android also could be a problem in the long term. Oracle initially lost its case but has succeeded on appeal.

"The biggest threat I see to Java at present is Oracle's pending litigation against Google," O'Grady says. "If Java is jeopardized on the Android platform, it could lead to a substantial perceived drop in developer relevance."

Challenge: Apple has proved Java can be banned without fallout
Although mechanisms exist for developers to build apps for iOS devices using Java, Java itself is not allowed on the iPhone or iPad. For its actions, Apple appears to have escaped any negative repercussions, given the wild, runaway popularity of its mobile platform, particularly in the United States.

Prominent iOS developer Christopher Allen thinks Apple got it right. "The original Java (from Sun/Oracle) just isn't really suited for mobile -- that is why Google forked it with Android. I would say that Apple benefited by avoiding Java and the JVM, thus not offering an unsatisfactory mobile experience," Allen says.

Java continues to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the trendiest mobile platform around. When crowds of people line up outside of their local Apple store to get the latest iPhone, they're obviously not upset about Apple's Java policy for these devices.


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