New Java looks to shake up desktop

Sun releases Java 2 Standard Edition 5.0, intended to make Java programs run faster and take less time to build.

Sun Microsystems gave Java developers new ammo in their ongoing battle against Microsoft with the release of an anticipated Java software update Thursday.

Sun Microsystems, steward of the Java standard, said Java programmers can now get access to a long-awaited Java upgrade , which includes a basic development kit and the "Java Runtime Environment"--the software needed to run Java programs. The update, formerly code-named Tiger, is called the Java 2 Standard Edition 5.0.

The new version of the software is meant to make Java programmers more productive and improve the performance of Java applications on desktop PCs, according to Sun.

Java tool providers are pitched in a long-running battle with Microsoft to woo developers . According to many analysts and developers, Microsoft's Windows software is more reliable than it has been in the past, making it an option for large-scale applications, and Microsoft's .Net development tools are generally simpler to use than comparable Java tools.

Tiger is an important release for Sun in attempting to attract developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) to Java rather than .Net, said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at research company RedMonk. "Certainly, .Net is gaining credibility as a very productive environment to work in. That said, Tiger goes a long way towards addressing what many would call Java's biggest weakness: performance," O'Grady said.

Java development tool providers are expected to release tools that use the new software over the next several months, according to a Sun representative. The J2SE software , which was developed by Sun and several other Java software companies, is widely used in desktop machines and forms the basis of the server version of the Java "runtime" called Java 2 Enterprise Edition .

J2SE 5.0 includes enhancements to simplify the Java language so that programmers can write applications faster. It includes built-in diagnostic tools to enable administrators to better manage Java programs, once they're deployed via monitoring programs.

Customers can also get a boost in performance and reliability by installing the new Java Virtual Machine that comes with the release, said Calvin Austin, the lead of the J2SE 5.0 specification at Sun. The initial kit will include Java Virtual Machines for Windows, Linux, Solaris and operating systems that run on Advanced Micro Devices' 64-bit processors .

In addition, J2SE 5.0's default look for desktop Java applications has been refreshed, and the start-up time for Java applications will be up to 20 percent faster, Austin said.

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