Sun’s JavaOne Conference for the Java development community opened yesterday at the Moscone Center in San Francisco. Macworld UK spoke with Apple’s Java product manager Allen Denison to discuss its Java plans.

Apple is co-sponsoring JavaOne, and also sits on the committee tasked with developing the Java standard. The company is at the show to let Java programmers know why Mac OS X and the Mac combined create the best platform yet for developing Java applications.

“Apple believes it has the best implementation of Java,” Denison said. “Mac OS X is the killer platform for developing Java applications. Apple includes Java with every Mac – it’s the only desktop company to do this, and Apple ships all the developer tools you need in the box,” he explained. “Java is actually a component part of the operating system – when we update the OS, we update Java.”

Developer boom Java applications run on OS X just like native OS X applications, he claimed: “This encourages Java developers to bring their applications to us because they aren’t treated like second-class citizens.

“We’re also looking at things we can do to improve the Java experience on Mac OS from a desktop, end-user perspective."

Desktop users need developers, and it’s developers Apple is reaching for at JavaOne. “We want to encourage developers at the conference to bring their applications to OS X. To support this, Apple is offering a compatibility lab of 10-15 Macs, fully staffed to help developers get their applications to Macintosh during the show.”

Denison confirmed that Apple is continuing its development work with Oracle. “We’re working with Oracle on bringing its applications to be fully served by OS X – and we’re trying to do this as soon as possible,” he said.

Apple is enjoying a widely publicized buzz of attention from Unix developers, who like the adoption of Unix at the core of OS X. Denison explains: “We’ve seen real grass-roots efforts in the Java community; the Unix community; other communities that haven’t been on the Macintosh for a long time – if ever.

Enterprise allowance “It’s not just because of our implementation of Java, but also because of the things we’ve combined. For example, we have a lot of developers who do J2EE (enterprise-level Java) development for corporations who work on their applications while travelling. They can’t do that on any other platform as easily as on OS X.”

Apple’s Java chief explained that part of the Mac’s charm rests on its unique combination of access to shrink-wrapped desktop applications, with a flexible, powerful, standards-based architecture. “Apple is in a unique position to provide an operating system and hardware specifically developed for Java – there’s no other company that can do this on the desktop; no one else has made that commitment.

“Apple is providing an opportunity for developers to bring their applications to the platform,” he claimed.

Apple’s present focus on Java developers also reflects the standard’s current adoption in the market. This may change, Denison explained: “We just rolled out hardware acceleration that improves the performance of desktop applications. The type of performance and speed gain seen for desktop applications in Java sets the scene for more applications targeted at the end user. Having a user interface that performs as fast, if not faster, than desktop applications is something end users need in order to compete with traditional desktop applications.”

Apple offers Unix and Java tools that enable developers to migrate. “We’re bringing developers to our platform, and they’re all treated equally – they are all first-class citizens,” he explained. “Their applications inherit the benefits of OS X, including the Aqua user experience”.

Talent strategy Pulling developers is also a strategic move, Denison said: “We thought it would be a good strategy, and we’re actually seeing it pan out just now. But it’s still a grass-roots effort.

“We’re just doing all the right things in terms of developing the right technologies and hoping it takes off,” he said.

Apple today is heavily involved in standards. Apache, Unix, MPEG-4, Java – how much does this mark a sea-change in the company’s approach? Denison replied: “Apple is very involved in standards now. It’s a key difference compared to Apple five years ago. It was a deliberate decision.

“We adopted open-source BSD and Mach as the underlying architecture of the operating system and open-sourced that in Darwin. Adopting Open GL; Apache including Java 2 support – all these things are part of the big move away from proprietary technology to open standards.”

Within that, Apple has attracted a number of former Unix, Linux and Open Source champions, including a contingent from Linux user interface firm, Eazel. Denison confirmed: “There’s a large number of people here who have been an active part of the open-source community, both outside and inside of Apple.”

With its focus on standards, adoption of open-source technologies and established reputation as an industry trendsetter, what does Java mean to Apple?

“Apple views Java as being the technology that enables people to develop and deploy applications across multiple platforms.

“We chose Java because we believe that no matter how big a company or what kind of organization you are, you’re going to have a heterogeneous network with many different platforms sitting on it on many devices.

“Java is the leader in this space right now – in fact, it’s probably the only player in the space for providing a cross-platform technology. And that’s why Apple chose to support Java in OS X – because Apple believes that Java is the glue binding all these systems together”

“I think that Java is heading towards becoming one of the most widely used languages. It’s used more and more for custom applications development inside corporations or higher education institutions.

“We see right now that that’s the space – where Java is used for custom application development within a company.” A chance for expansion?

“Apple wants to offer the best experience for Java on Macintosh, so OS X becomes the key choice for running Java applications,” Denison said.