Mark Reinhold, Chief Architect of the Java Platform Group at Oracle, accepted in his September 8th blog that the current timeline for the release of Java 7 is a tad unrealistic, and that a full increment release shouldn't be expected until the middle of 2012. "Our present best estimate is that we could complete, test, and stabilize the planned work in time for a release around the middle of 2012."
At the very least, 2012 will bring with it everything we currently expect to see in Java 7, including Lambda, Jigsaw and Coin. Only, it looks like that version of Java 7 will be called Java 8. By doing that, Oracle could test and release everything they've got working so far as Java 7, and add the extra bits into another full increment release closely thereafter. "Our current estimate for this 'Plan B' is that we could ship a reduced JDK 7 in mid-2011 and JDK 8 in the second half of 2012."
Of course, the problem with the delay is less about the technology, and more about the optics. The Java community is suffering through a great deal of uncertainty with the stewardship of the technology now resting in the hands of Oracle. The reality is that the Java Platform Group at Oracle is working hard to get Java 7 tested and released. The optics is that Java is stagnating. "I think what really makes people unhappy is not the modest Java 7 feature set but the five year gap since Java 6." Says Cay Horstmann in his blog on the topic.
What the Java community would like to see is Oracle really throwing their weight behind the Java platform. What we need to hear is someone at Oracle coming out and saying: "Look, we're the strongest software company in the world, and we're one hundred percent behind Java. We're not going to let release dates for our flagship development platform slip, and that's why we're going to dedicate more resources than ever to make sure Java 7 gets released, ahead of schedule, and with all of the features the community expects to find."
Unfortunately, that's not what we're getting. A five year gap between full increment releases is just too much. Someone at Oracle really needs to take the reigns, and demonstrate to the Java community that they're dedicated to the evolution and progression of the Java platform.