With 64-bit adoption rising for both Windows Vista and Windows 7 installations, Sun Microsystems' latest update of Java 6 features enhanced 64-bit support.
Java 6 Update 12 will finally have a 64-bit plug-in, a feature that was first requested in January of 2003, as well as a 64-bit version of Webstart. Java Webstart enables the deployment of standalone Java software applications over a network or the internet.
The Java plug-in allows web browsers to run Java applications; a 64-bit plug-in is required for 64-bit browsers. It is included as part of the Java Runtime Environment, Standard Edition (Java SE).
If 32-bit and 64-bit browsers are to be used interchangeably, then both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of the JRE must be installed as well.
Although the Java Runtime Environment had x64 versions for Linux, Solaris, and Windows, there were no 64-bit versions of the Java plug-in, Java Web Start or Java Control Panel. 32-bit versions of the JRE could be installed on 64-bit systems in order to obtain this functionality, but can only be used with 32-bit browsers.
The foundation for the 64-bit plug-in comes from the completely redesigned plug-in of Java 6 Update 10. The Java Virtual Machine running applets is isolated from the web browser at the operating system level. If an error occurs while running the applet, the new Java plug-in detects and handles the error. The web browser is unaffected, even if an uncooperative applet refuses to shut down.
Update 12 also features official Windows 2008 support, as well as improved application startup and runtime performance for both Java Webstart and JavaFX. There are no major security updates, but Update 12 contains 140 bugfixes.
Java 7, meanwhile, is tentatively scheduled for an early 2010 release.