IT departments can expect the imminent release of a major new version of the core Java specification, Java 2 Enterprise Edition 5 (J2EE 5), according to Java-owner Sun Microsystems, with new features to make it easier for developers to create Java-based web applications.
J2EE 5 will, for example, allow IT departments to annotate their Enterprise Java Beans 3 code, which means they can write instructions in English that the Java tools then interpret and execute, said Simon Ritter, a Java technology manager at Sun.
It will also feature Javaserver Faces, a tool to help developers quickly create web-based applications, as well as other tools to make coding simpler, said Sun.
Sun released the final draft of J2EE 5 on 22 February, and the new specification will be one of the major features of the JavaOne user conference, which takes place between 16 and 19 May in San Francisco.
As Java approaches its 11th year it is growing in popularity among many organisations, including banks, telecoms companies, and mobile device makers.
A UK Java conference this month attracted 1,000 developers. However, enthusiasm for the technology has not stopped Sun being criticised by users for not working hard enough to make the platform easier for non-technical developers to use, and not helping developers who are trying to create desktop applications with a Windows character.
Java and .net developer and chief technical officer of Edge IPK, Dharmish Mistry, said Java is flourishing, but Sun could still make Java tools easier to use for non-technical developers and business users.
This is something Microsoft has seen success with, with tools like Infopath, said Mistry. "Sun does not have that story and tends to focus only on developers," Mistry said.
Java also needs to make gains on the desktop, said Mistry. "Conquering the enterprise is one thing, but you have got to win the desktop. That does not mean the operating system, but creating good Java desktop applications," he said.
However, Sun insisted it is working hard to make Java easier to use. For example, Sun has been working on web service integration, particularly to ease integration with Microsoft's .net, and IBM and BEA's enterprise platforms, said Ritter.
Sun has also developed the Java Studio Creator visual Java development suite, to help users create quick and simple Java applications. He added that Sun has concentrated on .net interoperability with the next release of the Java language - Java SE6.
"We are putting a lot of effort in to the look and feel to make native apps indistinguishable from Windows apps," he said.
Ovum analyst Bola Rotibi said that developers no longer just have to choose between Java or Microsoft. "A year ago everything was J2EE. Now, you have a mix of environments with XML, Ajax, J2EE, the Eclipse framework, and others. The key is to have interoperability and a decent framework," she said.