October 27, 2016

OpenJDK 7 for Mac OS X is Out – But is it for 64 bit Intel Machines Only?

JavaA few months ago Apple quietly deprecated the official Apple port of Java to OS X and it told developers to “not rely on the Apple-supplied Java runtime being present in future versions of Mac OS X”. A few weeks later Apple and Oracle jointly announced the OpenJDK project for Mac OS X and we were told that “Apple will contribute most of the key components, tools and technology required for a Java SE 7 implementation on Mac OS X, including a 32-bit and 64-bit HotSpot-based Java virtual machine, class libraries, a networking stack and the foundation for a new graphical client.”

Now, a couple of months later the first snapshot of OpenJDK 7 has been published. The new Mac OS X Port Project page on java.net lists the project’s goal as “to produce a high-quality, open source version of JDK 7 for the Mac.”

But there is some concern about which Macs can run the new port. The requirements for the port are any 64-bit capable Intel Mac and Mac OS X 10.6.5. So the need for 10.6 and the stated requirement for an Intel CPU means OpenJDK 7 won’t be available for older Macs running 10.5 with a PowerPC CPU. This is expected as Apple switch to Intel CPUs five years ago.

But what about the requirement for a 64 bit CPU? It is a common misunderstanding that all Intel Macs are 64 bit capable. Unfortunately this isn’t true. All the initial 2006 Macs are in fact 32 bit machines. This includes iMacs, Macbooks, MacBook Pros and Mac minis. This means that early Intel Mac adopters may not get the chance to use OpenJDK 7.

However there is some good news. As part of the Apple & Oracle joint announce in November last year, Apple “confirmed that Java SE 6 will continue to be available from Apple for Mac OS X Snow Leopard and the upcoming release of Mac OS X Lion.” So it looks like Apple will be supporting Java SE 6 on 32 bit platforms in OS X Lion.