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Google Searching for Java Innovators
Name the one thing you most associate with Google?

Things probably started when some of Java's engineering team moved from Sun to work for Google. I remember the highlight of JavaOne 2003 for me was being lucky enough to hear Josh Bloch and Neal Gafter deliver a fabulous joint presentation on Java 5's new features. I left not only thinking that the language was having a long overdue rejuvenation, but that Sun had some good engineering talent at the helm. When later I heard that both Josh and Neal were now working for Google, I remember being slightly disappointed that Sun had lost what were clearly two talented people and feeling that the language would suffer as a result. Fortunately, this doesn't seem to have occurred; both were very much in force at last year's JavaOne. The language buzz for me was closures and both of the now Google employees are very much at the forefront of the ideas and energy behind this. Java as a language hadn't lost any of their enthusiasm and passion.

It's not just language innovation that seems to be coming from Google employees - there's also the Google Widget Toolkit (GWT). This is a superb piece of technology that takes Java source code and compiles it into JavaScript and HTML. The concept is sweet: Javac compiles Java into bytecodes that run on top of a virtual machine that maps instructions to operating system instructions. For a browser, why not twist this slightly so that the language of authorship is still Java, yet compile it into something better suited and closer to the currency of the browser itself, i.e., HTML and AJAX-rich JavaScript. People fuss about whether it's Java or not; whether it's part of a JSR and so forth, but whatever your views it still means that Java is the language you write applications in, and the programmer is abstracted away from the subtleties and nuances of each different platform by coding at a high level in a machine-independent manner.

The latest product in this vein is Android, an open operating system for mobile phones and SDK. When it was first announced by Google, together with an alliance of 33 partners, many critics focused on the fact it wasn't part of a Java release, blessed by the Java Community Process, and so forth. Leaving aside this "glass half empty" viewpoint, the key for me is that it is built around Java as the language of choice for its developers. Its rivals in the mobile phone space include Symbian, backed by a consortium of phone companies, where C++ is used to create applications for mobile phones and embedded devices. What's exciting about Android is that it isn't just about showing a coffee cup and allowing phone users to play Tetris or Sudoku while waiting for their delayed plane - it's about the whole phone stack OS being based around a Linux/Java kernel opening up all services to applications and hopefully making the end-user experience more powerful and, important for Google, Web aware.

For a long time I've always found that each upgrade of my phone moves the hardware forward (better camera, larger screen, longer battery life), at the expense of the software, which on my latest phone seems to be going functionally backwards. I love open source because smart people get involved who not only talk about fixing things but actually can, and do, get involved and make change happen. For Android this means that future Richard Stallmans can get their hands on the source code and write fixes and enhancements.

In Java. That's the key. If Android takes off it'll be Java. If GWT takes off it'll be Java. As long as Josh and Neal, and others who have followed them, take their enthusiasm for Java with them to arguably one of the most innovative and forward-thinking companies of this century, then Java has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

About Joe Winchester
Joe Winchester, Editor-in-Chief of Java Developer's Journal, was formerly JDJ's longtime Desktop Technologies Editor and is a software developer working on development tools for IBM in Hursley, UK.

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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

Especially GWT is one of the brilliant ideas of Google. I like their "make programming easy" aim! They changed computer science obviously. Thanks for article.




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