J2SE to get a makeover with 1.5 upgrade

Sun Microsystems Inc. has released a beta version of the next release of Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE), a set of specifications used to develop Java applications primarily for desktop computers.

Sun described the upgrade, developed under the code name Tiger, as the latest major revision to the Java platform. It implements dozens of changes, many of which focus on making the Java programming language easier for developers to use.

A beta release of the upgrade, called J2SE 1.5, was released Wednesday for download at Sun’s Java Web site. The final version is expected out by the middle of the year. It consists of two parts — an SDK (software development kit) and a Java runtime environment.

While Sun’s Java software has been widely adopted on server computers, its use on the desktop has been less widespread. Nevertheless, J2SE is seen as important because it provides the foundation for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), the server version of Java. Changes to J2SE often indicate where the development of J2EE is heading.

Along with making Java easier to program with, the J2SE upgrade focuses on issues that are important for enterprise use, such as performance, scalability and security. It also adds support for Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s 64-bit Opteron chips for servers running Windows 2003 and SuSE Linux AG’s version of Linux.

Altogether, the upgrade implements 15 Java Specification Requests, which are suggestions for extending and improving Java that pass through the multivendor Java Community Process. Many of the changes to the Java language shift responsibility for writing basic code elements from the programmer to the software compiler, which should mean fewer bugs and less work for developers.

Other new features include a new Java virtual machine monitoring and management application programming interface, better “out of the box performance” and a new default look and feel, according to information at Sun’s Java Web site.

Sun plans to announce the Java update Thursday morning. It declined to discuss the J2SE upgrade before that time. Sun offers three main editions of Java: J2EE, J2SE and J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition), for portable devices such as cell phones.

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