The responses to my post have been very positive and even the dissent was kindly worded. Mostly it can be chalked up to a difference of opinion. After all, what else is there? Facts? Right.
But there's one common rebuttal I will address, and it is this:
>> you can't just stop supporting backward compatibility.
Oh yes you can. And sometimes you should...
Apple took a big risk and made a big change by introducing OSX. How many of their customers are begging to go back to OS 9? Or how many wish they had just kept adding onto OS 9 for the sake of backward compatibility? How many of you fashionable-Mac-geeks would still be toting your shiny silver monolith of aesthetic goodness if it was running OS9, or some derivative of it?
Microsoft took a huge leap when they swapped out MFC and Visual Basic for the .NET Platform. Their customers didn't fault them for doing so, and their community welcomed the the change. Find me a person begging to work with MFC or VB6 instead of .NET.
Not only did Apple and Microsoft make current customers happy, I'm pretty sure they gained new customers in the process. I wonder how many holdouts finally switched to Java 5 now that it has ...generics? ...annotations? Surely some switched when the new logo was presented with Java 6! Help me out here.
It takes a bit of guts to admit that perhaps Java would have been better off if it hadn't evolved in this way. It takes guts to plan for a larger step forward that would truly take the Java platform where it needs to be.
Backward compatibility is no excuse. JRuby and Groovy are managing to be compatible with Java... so why should we think that "Java++" can't? In many ways, working with existing Java code with JRuby and Groovy is nicer! It's amazing how successful they've been in that regard.
I believe the same would have been true if Sun had built something truly new and innovative. Java 5 was a big change, it did impact some code and your environment. Hell, your fancy IDE with code completion probably needed a major upgrade at a significant cost... except for you Eclipse and NetBeans users I suppose. :-)
But for all of the imposition, you got very little for it. Java 5 was like moving to a new house that had the same number of rooms, but more hallways.