Steve Jobs has apparently weighed into the debate over Apple's decision to deprecate Java on the Mac, and his terse explanation was promptly deprecated by Java founder James Gosling.
According to MacRumors.com, a concerned Java developer emailed the Apple cult leader on Thursday to ask about Apple's plans for the platform, and as he's been known to do from time to time, Jobs responded.
"Sun (now Oracle) supplies Java for all other platforms," Jobs allegedly wrote. "They have their own release schedules, which are almost always different than ours, so the Java we ship is always a version behind. This may not be the best way to do it."
James Gosling's answer came via a blog post. "It simply isn't true," he said. But whatever the truth of Jobs' response, he didn't actually say what the company's plans are. It's still unclear whether Apple will actually kill Java for Mac – though this seems very likely – and he didn't say whether the company intends to help a third party build a replacement.
On Wednesday, as Apple unveiled a future version of Mac OS X and an imminent Mac App Store, the company also snuck out a brief announcement that Java had been "deprecated" on Mac OS X and that it may kill the platform altogether. "As of the release of Java for Mac OS X 10.6 Update 3, the version of Java that is ported by Apple, and that ships with Mac OS X, is deprecated," read the release notes from Apple's latest update to Java for Mac.
"This means that the Apple-produced runtime will not be maintained at the same level, and may be removed from future versions of Mac OS X. The Java runtime shipping in Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, will continue to be supported and maintained through the standard support cycles of those products."
After deprecating Java, the company also announced that applications using deprecated technologies such as Java will not be allowed in the upcoming Mac App Store.
If Steve Jobs is killing Java on the Mac – as seems likely – he's also turning his back on the untold number of Java developers who do their work on Apple laptops and desktops, which – it's worth pointing out – includes Android developers. Java development kits such as Eclipse and IntelliJ and NetBeans won't themselves run without Java. "I cannot overstate what catastrophe this is," says one coder on Apple's Java developer mailing list. "If the future of Java on Mac is in doubt, then I have no other choice than going the Linux way...all the work I've done trying to get all developers converting to Mac is undone."
Simon Phipps – the former head of open source at Sun and a current board member with the Open Source Initiative (OSI) – agrees. "This has to be a big negative for all the many developers who prefer to use a Mac than Windows to develop their Java code," reads a blog post from Phipps. "Looks like the future for Ubuntu as a developer desktop just got several degrees brighter – does Steve Jobs ignore the Ballmer Imperative at his peril?"