Oracle announces Java 7

Oracle have officially announced Java 7, the first major release of the language since Oracle took over Sun.

Java 7 has been very delayed, and a lot of the major features have been shifted to the Java 8 release. However, the new version still offers a lot to developers and businesses working with the platform.

The compiler for Java 7 has been improved so much that Oracle decided to backport it to a Java 6 update. Overall speed improvements can be observed of up to 20%, one Oracle engineer told me at the launch event.

Language changes are collected under the "Project Coin" banner: it encompasses easier generics use with the "diamond" syntax (look for much shorter and readable instanciations); better exception handling with multi-catch functionality and a feature called "try with resources", which helps reduce code and cleanup objects when exceptions are handled; and of course consistency improvements such as strings in switch statements.

Other headlining features include dynamic language support - the ability to call out to Jruby, scale, python and other dynamic languages from within Java. Companies who are almost entirely Java will not appreciate this feature, but those that use a myriad of languages will definitely benefit from the ability to manage the entire lot from a single language and on a single runtime.

The final version of Java 7 is expected to be available towards the end of this month - yesterday's launch event was likely timed to coincide with an appropriate date. However a beta of the release is currently available, albeit with license terms which require its uninstallation after a set period of time - something large corporations with big Java development departments have been hesitant to take up. Meanwhile, Java 8 is not expected to arrive for at least a year and a half and perhaps up to two years from now: this is dangerously close to when official support for Java 6, the previous current version, ends.

Oracle have admitted that Java 7 is an evolution, not a revolution, of the Java language ("The real revolution will be in Java 8", one Oracle engineer said to me). What remains to be seen is how Oracle monetises the Java platform, and whether they manage to in a more successful way that Sun ever managed.

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