Simon Phipps: “Yes, you can now apt-get install sun-java5-jre and have it install without fuss on Debian and Ubuntu.”
Great news. We’re one step closer to a Java/Linux combo that’s more than just Java bolted onto the side of Linux (admittedly, there’s still a bit of that here, though at least it’s attached with standard componentry now rather than the old bubble gum and bailing wire).
Why is tighter integration important? Because the alternative, namely Windows and .NET, offers a tightly integrated combo that “just works”. The more a developer has to do (like, say, ship a bundled runtime because that runtime isn’t guaranteed to be available on a key platform), the more attractive the alternative looks.
The real question is: Will this be enough? I’ve long contended that open-source Java is a red herring—the real challenge for Java on Linux is ubiquity, not licensing, and licensing is really only an issue because it gets in the way of ubiquity. Time will tell if this step represents the boost Java needs to become to Linux what .NET is to Windows.
I don’t know though. For that to happen, the major Linux distributions have to not just add Java to the menu of available software, they have to add Java to the default configuration (much as Perl and Python are default components today), and I just don’t see Red Hat, Debian, or Ubuntu doing that till Java is open source. Still, I’m optimistic we’ll get there. Question is, will we get there in time?
P.S. – How about making some of the Java platform components available via APT too? If I’m developing an application that uses, say, JavaMail, I have to go to the web, download it, figure out that it depends on the JavaBeans Activation Framework (JAF), download that, set up my classpath appropriately depending on where I downloaded them, etc. It would be great if I could just
apt-get install javamail and have exactly the environment I need without additional effort.