Much of the brouhaha over Java has been over applets. Java is actually a general-purpose programming language that can solve the kinds of problems you can solve with other languages—at least in theory. And as pointed out previously, there might be more effective ways to solve most client/server problems. When you move out of the applet arena (and simultaneously release the restrictions, such as the one against writing to disk) you enter the world of general-purpose applications that run standalone, without a Web browser, just like any ordinary program does. Here, Java’s strength is not only in its portability, but also its programmability. As you’ll see throughout this book, Java has many features that allow you to create robust programs in a shorter period than with previous programming languages.
Be aware that this is a mixed blessing. You pay for the improvements through slower execution speed (although there is significant work going on in this area—in particular, the so-called “hotspot” performance improvements in recent versions of Java). Like any language, Java has built-in limitations that might make it inappropriate to solve certain types of programming problems. Java is a rapidly evolving language, however, and as each new release comes out it becomes more and more attractive for solving larger sets of problems.