Is Java on Leopard a Problem?

A colleague asked me last month if we could talk about something by video iChat; I replied that my current Mac was still my 12" G4/867 PowerBook, and I therefore did not have a camera immediately at hand. "A classic machine," he said approvingly, and I agreed — I like the compact size and excellent keyboard. I added that I recognized the strengths of the newer Intel-CPU MacBook Pro systems, but that I saw no rush to upgrade before I could get one this month with the Unix and Xcode goodies of Leopard pre-installed.

Now, I’m wondering when the newborn Leopard will have its eyes fully open to developer needs. Issues of LAMP stack support and, in particular, Java 6 non-support are glowing white-hot on developers’ thermal imagers, even while some extol Leopard’s many developer-oriented benefits.

I’ve owned and used Macs of various sorts since 1985, side-by-side with DOS and Win3.x/9x and OS/2 and NT4 and Win2K/XP machines: I’m not religious about whether I do any given task on any particular system. There are tasks that I find easier to do with tools that I happen to have on my PowerBook, just as there some applications that I only have installed on a 1 GHz Win2K Vaio with only 256 MB RAM — making it actually preferable to far more powerful machines for solving certain problems.

I’m dismayed, however, by the prospect that a MacBook Pro running Leopard might take some time to rise to the top of my list (it’s fallen off James Gosling’s, with Solaris engaging new interest) for Unix/Java-oriented development. It can’t be a good sign that Java is literally nowhere mentioned on the "300+ New Features" page for OS X 10.5. JavaScript, yes; Objective-C 2.0, yes; even Ruby on Rails, yes. But Java support, which I’ve seen as a real strength of Apple’s platform since 2002, is unaccountably absent from the list.

Is this an actual problem, or just the typical lag between an OS X update and Java support to match? Do you care? And if so, how will you respond?

November 2, 2007