Java is Essential to the Software Ecosystem

by Clay Shirky

Editor's Note: This week's news that Microsoft will not include the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with Windows XP is a blow to developers who have created Java applications and applets designed to work with the world's dominant operating system. Clay Shirky and O'Reilly & Associates are calling on PC manufacturers to install the most recent version of the JVM on the Windows machines they ship. Read Clay's rationale, and add your name to the list of people who demand that the JVM remain a vital part of the personal computing ecosystem.

To Dell, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Gateway, IBM, Toshiba, Sony, and all original-equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of the Intel-compatible personal computing world: a plea to preserve diversity in the computing ecosystem.


The personal computer is the ubiquitous computing platform. It is the center of the average user's computing experience and increasingly critical as a server, connecting to pagers, personal digital assistants, mobile telephones, set-top boxes, and other devices. Thus, the public has a strong interest in having easy access to new and innovative applications for the PC, particularly network-aware applications that take advantage of the PC's functions as a server as well as a client.

Seen in this light, the recent announcement by Microsoft not to include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) with its future operating systems is a terrible blow to the computing ecosystem. This decision threatens to lower the diversity of programs that can easily run on the PC, and it raises unnecessary barriers to interconnecting the world's devices.

Because the Java programming language offers the best potential support for software designed to run in multiple environments; because millions of Java programmers have created many thousands of Java applications that are especially rich in features for servers and for connecting multiple types of devices; and because there is constant and ongoing industry effort to add new features and speed to Java itself:


It is essential that a Java Virtual Machine continue to be an integral part of the basic installation of all personal computers, and accessible from their browsers.

A Call to Action for the OEMs

For the sake of programmers attempting to create innovative and widely supported applications; and to minimize the difficulties in writing and distributing great software;

And for the sake of computer users for whom such applications are created;

We request that you, the manufacturers of the world's personal computers, excercise the "greater flexibility" Microsoft has promised in the configuration of the systems you ship, by installing the most recent version of the Java Runtime Environment on every personal computer you manufacture, and installing the most recent version of the Java plug-in on every browser.

Your support for Java will immediately provide impetus to, and an outlet for, the talents of the world's programmers, as well as increase the value of your hardware to the user, and encourage the diversity of the software ecosystem. Most importantly, your action secures for your customers ongoing access to a vast and growing body of important and innovative software.