Java SE 6 Released

Today Sun announced the release of Java SE version 6. Last week I spoke with Danny Coward (Java SE Platform Lead) about the features and significance of the new release.

From my perspective, the most interesting feature is the built-in support for what they’re calling “script engines”, that is, pluggable alternate syntaxes that run in an interpreted environment on top of the JVM. They’re shipping one script engine with Java SE: JavaScript. The others (Ruby, Python, etc.) will be available for download. Sun promotes script engines as a feature for rapid development, and for parts of a system that change frequently, while still encouraging Java syntax for most code.

Another positive trend is toward ease of development. This hasn’t necessarily been a high priority for Java in the past. In this category, they’ve brought web services features from Java EE into Java SE, they have a new layout manager, and new features for sorting and filtering tables and lists (what many would call data munging). All of these features will be included in the open source release of Java SE later this year.

Another interesting change in this release isn’t in features, but in their process of development. They’ve had a much greater community involvement in this release than before, with weekly builds available to the community. Danny commented that the regular bug reports and feedback from the community have made the development process much smoother. Instead of one big release and a flurry of reports around that release, they’ve had a steady stream of input as they go. It’s a big philosophical shift for Sun, and one they plan to continue in future releases of Java. Three cheers for the benefits of an open source model of development, even in big enterprise software shops.

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