|By Dana Nourie and John Zukowski, Updated August 2007|
When the Java platform was introduced in 1995, Sun Microsystems included a browser known as HotJava to support Java technologies, such as applets. Soon after, Netscape announced they were licensing the Java Runtime Environment(JRE) for inclusion in the Navigator browser. Microsoft followed by licensing Java technology for use in the Internet Explorer browser, but they later fragmented the platform by introducing nonstandard extensions and omissions.
Meanwhile, Sun expanded the platform, and Java technology thrived. You'll find Java technology applications in businesses from network servers to handheld devices. Millions of developers write to the platform, and many more consumers use Java technologies as they communicate over the Internet, and as they keep track of the daily schedules on handheld devices and cell phones. Java technologies even reach into the skies as telescopes use Java RMI technology for tracking. Sun Microsystems continues to support the platform and protect its integrity.
The end of life of the MS VM on the Windows desktop provides the user with an opportunity to replace it with the modern and compatible JRE that Sun provides. With Sun's Java SE gaining popularity on desktops it is attractive for developers to code to the Java platform. Cross platform counts.
In addition, Java Web Start technology gives you the power to launch full-featured applications with a single click from the Web browser without going through complicated installation procedures or having to use applets, and Sun's JRE is localized into French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, and Traditional Chinese.
The lack of support for the MS VM should affect few. To minimize impact, Sun has created a website for consumers to easily upgrade their JRE with the Java Plugin from Java.com. This plugin enables consumers to interact with the Internet and run other Java applications. In addition, by having your customers change to the official Sun JRE, applications run on the latest version of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) provided with the Java Plugin, ensuring additional security features and built-in support for such newer libraries of the Swing component set. Because Microsoft's MS VM was based on the Java 1.1 platform, it was limited in the variety and breadth of applications you could provide for consumers. Encouraging the users of your applications to upgrade to the current Sun's JRE allows you to develop to a richer, broader platform.
Since the Java Plugin runs in the browser much like add-ons, such as Macromedia Flash or Adobe Acrobat, people generally understand and are willing to upgrade to the latest version of Java software. By hosting the Java Get It Now button, you ensure your customers have the latest and greatest version of the JRE to run applications.
How much your customers are affected depends on the kinds of dependencies that your applets and applications have on the MS VM. Some applets may no longer work once the JRE is upgraded, so you'll need to modify the code accordingly.
To help developers transition applets and applications over to the official JRE, Sun has put together a Java Upgrade Site to make this process easy.
Typically, just recompiling your program with the standard Java compiler, instead of the Microsoft command-line or Visual J++ compiler, reveals which nonstandard classes are being accessed. Areas that may need work include differences in the security model, applet packaging (JAR vs. CAB files), and if used local scratch space through the
com.ms.io.clientstorage package). Using technologies like J/Direct (instead of JNI), Windows Foundation Classes (WFC), and Application Foundation Classes (AFC), accessing any Microsoft Windows VM specific classes may require developers to substitute similar standard technologies.
Ensure that your users have a smooth transition by following the steps we describe here. Consider the Sun JRE a great target for developing richer client applications with standards that enable your applets and applications to run anywhere.
Though the installed base for some applications is on the outdated MS VM, millions have been upgrading to the Sun JRE. The Java Platform provides additional technologies to developers, IT administrators, and consumers that the MS VM did not, such as Java Web Start, Java 2D, JavaSound, Regular Expressions, New I/O, and the full Swing packages and optimization. In addition, developers can take advantage of JavaFX Script Technology, a highly productive scripting language that enables content developers to create rich media and content for deployment on Java environments.
The Java site continues to make the downloads and practical articles and tutorials a top priority, and to support developers, IT administrators, and consumers.
To report technical issues and problems concerning the MS VM and upgrading to Sun's JRE, please go the Java Upgrade Forum.