I wrote my first Java book using a version 1 beta JDK so I have been in the game for a long while. I also downloaded (2400 baud modem?) enough of Slackware Linux to boot in 1993. Soon after I then made one of the best investments ever, and for a very small fee bought a set of floppy disks with Slackware, X, and the gnu tools.
Linux and Java for server side development and deployment have been reluctant lovers for about a decade. Forget about wide spread client side Linux Java development because Java was not installed automatically – except for SuSE Professional.
Finally, Sun is tweaking their licensing policies and it looks like automatic JRE installation with many distros is going to happen. Is it too late to make a huge difference? I believe so. If this had happened 5 years ago and if technology like Apple’s contribution of multiple JVMs sharing memory for libraries had become a standard Linux install item, then the Java and Linux worlds would be very different today. Too bad, really.