No More Java Support for XP, But It Still Works on the OS, Oracle Says
The reports of the death of Oracle's support for Java on Windows XP have, apparently, been greatly exaggerated -- or, rather, misunderstood. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP on April 8, and Oracle followed that announcement with a short post to the java.com Web sitewarning that users of Java 7 updates on XP do so "at their own risk" and that "support will only be provided against Microsoft Windows releases Windows Vista or later." Further, XP users will not be able install Java 8 on their machines without upgrading their operating systems.
The misunderstanding, says Henrik Stahl, vicw president of product management in Oracle's Platform Group, is that people think Java no longer works on XP and that Oracle will stop Java updates from being applied to XP. Not true, Stahl said. Writing in his "thoughts on Java" blog, he said, "We expect all versions of Java that were supported prior to the Microsoft de-support announcement to continue to work on Windows XP for the foreseeable future." He added that security updates issued by Oracle would continue to be pushed out to Windows XP desktops.
He took particular care to point out that users who download JDK 7 from java.oracle.com or java.com will continue to be able to install on Windows XP. "[W]e expect that JDK 7 will continue to work on Windows XP," he wrote.
To be clear, Java 8 is definitely no supported on XP. Stahl added that there are known issues with the installer on Windows XP that prevent it from installing without manual intervention. "We are looking at possible ways to address this issue," he wrote, "but may decide not to—if you are on Windows XP it's not clear that it's worth updating to Java 8 without also updating the OS."
He also put to rest rumors that the upcoming security update for JDK 7 will not work on XP. Not true he said, adding that automatic updates of JDK 7 will continue to be sent to XP users until public updates are discontinued.
Estimates of the numbers of Windows XP users vary, but it's widely agreed that there are lot of XP machines still in use in the wild. The number 500 million gets thrown around a lot. NetApplications, which uses browsing stats to estimated OS usage, reported that in May 2014 XP users accounted for just over 25% of the desktop OS market. And yet that number continues to decline at a rapid pace. Back in late 2008, XP was running on about 75% of desktops, according to web analytics service StatCounter.
So, this is big news for a lot of people, but it's unlikely to have much of an impact on enterprise Java developers. Although a surprisingly large-but-declining number of consumers are still on XP, corporate usage of the OS is minimal, Gartner analyst Mark Driver points out.
"There are a lot of very old PCs out there," he said. "But this will not be a massive issue for corporate developers. And given that XP is dead, I don't see a major issue for consumers, either, beyond the security issues [associated with using an unsupported operating system].
Redmonk analyst Stephen O'Grady agrees: "While there are still a lot of [XP machines] in circulation, relatively speaking, they won't be for long," he said. "As for enterprises, of that usage, I suspect the majority are from old personal computers. Very few large-scale shops would feel comfortable running on XP at this point."
One group that might feel some pain as XP winds down is the Java jocks maintaining ATM kiosks, O'Grady pointed out. "XP, as you know, still powers a lot of ATMs worldwide," he said, "and if some reasonable percentage of them are also running Java that could be a problem."
John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of Converge360.com sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS. He can be reached at email@example.com.