Sun was nice enough to send me email announcing the release of Java SE 6 on Tuesday. Java 6 is not as exciting as Java 5, but there are a few things to get excited about right off the bat:
Integrated web services: JAX-WS is a new API for XML-based web services. JAXB 2.0 is included.
Enhanced management and serviceability to make profiling and memory leak debugging easier
JDBC 4.0 (JSR 221)
If you don't want to spend 27 minutes watching the WebEx Java 6 announcement, here's a summary:
Java 6 is free (libre, not just gratis); it is not just open source with a restrictive license. The new license is GPLv2, with a classpath exception that allows you to build commercial closed-source applications. The tools you need to build and run Java 6 applications (javac, hotspot vm, javahelp) are now completely compatible with Linux and other open source projects
Java 6 is defined in JSR 270.
The Hotspot JVM and core library include performance improvements that make them run significantly faster. One of the improvements involves GC scaling and parallelism.
You can now use the Java Monitoring and Management Console to attach to a JVM that is already running. (Does this mean we don't need tools like JProbe and Your Kit Java Profiler?)
There are improvements to Swing that improve an application's native look and feel.
Building and deploying XML-based web services is a lot easier. All you have to do in your code is add the right annotation, and your class can be made available as a web service or use a web service. They also included JAXB 2.0, my favorite way to convert between XML documents and Java objects. SOAP 1.2 support adds .NET compatibility
There are additional rich client development improvement to make a Java desktop application behave like a native app, with easy access to the platform's native security services and default helper applications.
JDBC4 adds XML as a SQL data type.
JavaDB is included. Based on Apache Derby, it is fee to use and deploy.
Compatibility across platforms and with previous releases continues to be excellent.
One early adopter observes 25%-30% performance improvements.
Based solely on the promise of better performance, it's time to download Java 6 and try it out.