Sorry if these questions are dumb but...
Do browsers come with a java runtime? And if so, why don't newer releases of browsers contain the latest java runtime? Surely there must be some general push towards newer technology?
Every major and almost every minor OEM distributor of computer equipment includes the latest Java from Sun with new computers they ship, and all browsers will, by default, use the Java that is installed on the machine.
The only way to end up with no Java on a machine is if you buy Windows XP or Linux in a box, reformat your drive, and install from scratch.
Macromedia's studies show Java is available on about 90% of machines browsing the net (for comparison, it showed Adobe Acrobat at 80%). These number were gathered with a questionable methodology, but they're probably in the right ballpark.
Last March, Sun published figures showing Java was on 650,000 machines.
Of course, to the original point of this thread, a significant portion of those machines are still running the 1.1.4ish MS JVM, so any broad-based consumer application will need to limit the features used to the 1.1 set.
Anecdotally, our 3D viewing solutions ( http://www.kaon.com/software
) have been used at dell.com for about 3 years now, and we've never had a complaint from Dell about Java availability on client machines.