Oracle has released Java Platform Standard Edition 7 (Java SE 7), the first major update to the programming language in more than five years.
This is the first release of Java SE under Oracle's stewardship.
"We all know for various business and political reasons that this release has taken some time," admitted Oracle chief Java architect Mark Reinhold in a webcast earlier this month.
By Oracle's estimate, 9 million developers worldwide use Java. Tiobe Software estimates it is the world's most widely used programming language, edging out C and trumping C++ with twice as many users.
More than 3 billion devices run Java, and it is deployed by 97 percent of enterprise desktops worldwide. Each year, the Java runtime is downloaded more than a billion times.
Since Oracle acquired Java as part of its January 2010 acquisition of Sun Microsystems, it has come under close scrutiny from a number of quarters for its management.
In December, the Apache Software Foundation withdrew its participation from the Java Community Process, claiming that Oracle did not govern Java as a truly open specification. Oracle, meanwhile, has sued Google for what it considers inappropriate use of Java in Google's Android mobile operating system.
The new release is "solid, though it is more of an incremental release than anything else," said Mark Little, senior director of engineering for Red Hat's middleware business, as well as Red Hat's primary liaison for the JCP.
This new version addresses many of the trends that have swept over the field of computing programming over the past decade. It offers vastly improved support for the growing number of non-Java dynamic languages designed to run on Java Virtual Machine, such as Scala and Groovy.
It features an API (application programming interface) for simplifying the task of running a program across multiple processor cores. The range of actions that programs can take with file systems has been vastly improved as well.
Sun Microsystems first released Java in 1995, and in 1998 set up the JCP to allow outside parties to have a say in further development of the language. In 2007, Sun relicensed Java under an open-source license, GNU, version 2.
Developers can use version 7 of the NetBeans IDE (Integrated Development Environment), or IntelliJ IDEA 10.5, to write Java 7 applications. Oracle will update its JDeveloper IDE for Java 7 support later this year.