As a developer, I often hear of Java referred to as ‘The Next Cobol’. If I had a nickel for every time I read an article entitled ‘Java is Dead’, I’d be retired. In fact, searching for articles that contain the exact words “Java is Dead” returns 63,100 results. All this noise could make a Java developer worry about the security of their job and the investment of knowledge they have made over their career.
Although some of those articles seem to have valid points, the truth of the matter is that Java is still the most used programming language in the world, currently holding 19% of the market share in July of 2011. Although that numbers may have dropped 2 percentage points over the last 5 years, it certainly looks like those who predict the demise of Java to have a clouded crystal ball.
Looking forward, can we predict that Java will gain or lose popularity? To take a take a deeper look into that question, let’s look at internet usage and mobile markets.
Growth in application development is clearly moving in a trend towards mobile markets. In 2014, mobile internet usage is predicted to overtake desktop internet usage. Of the worlds 4 billion mobile phones, 1/4 of them are “smart” phones.
Enter Google… In 2009 Google’s Android platform occupied only 3.9% of worldwide market share. In 2010, it had climbed to an astonishing 23%. In 2011, it is estimated that it will occupy 38.5% and in 2012, 49% of worldwide smart phone market share. What language are Android applications developed in? Java.
The natural question here is “Why did Google Choose Java?”. After a few seconds of thought it becomes clear that it was an obvious choice. Java is a mature language, has a massive open source community and excellent tools/IDEs. Its only pitfall is that its the Java Virtual Machine is perhaps a little slow. To combat this, Google wrote its own Virtual Machine called Dalvik, which is highly optimized for mobile devices and designed so that many of these VMs can run simultaneously. By creating the Dalvik VM, Google manages to have the best of both worlds.
With the emergence of the mobile market and the dominance of Android platform, Java seems to be gaining momentum. In a growing market, on a growing platform it would appear as if Java may not only be ‘Not Dead’, but flourishing.