June 4, 2004 9:23 AM PDT

Sun plans an open-source Java--someday

Sun Microsystems has followed up an announcement that its Solaris server operating system will have an open-source flavor with a similar promise for its Java technology.

Raghavan Srinivas, Java technology evangelist for Sun, told CNET Networks' Builder AU that an open-source version of Java "will happen" but declined to elaborate on time lines or specifics of license arrangements.


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"We haven't worked out how to open-source Java--but at some point, it will happen," Srinivas said. "It might be today, tomorrow or two years down the road."

It is believed to be the first time Sun has explicitly stated its intention to make the Java programming language open source. Sun representatives have previously said Java is open enough under its current format and that moving to an open-source model would encourage incompatible versions of the technology.

On Wednesday, the company's president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz, said Sun plans to bring its proprietary Solaris software to the open-source world. But he, too, declined to give a timetable for the shift.

Sun has been intermittently warming to the opportunities presented by open-source software, the best-known example of which is the increasingly popular Linux operating system. Open source gives Sun a tool with which to undercut rival software maker Microsoft but also poses a competitive threat to Sun itself.

The Java community is split over whether open-sourcing Java would be beneficial.

Earlier this year, free-software advocate Richard Stallman and open-source leader Eric Raymond both called on Sun to open-source the Java technology in order to give it greater acceptance within the developer community and allow programmers freedom to exploit its potential. IBM, which arguably has a greater financial interest in the Java platform than Sun, also has called on Sun to make Java open source.

But others, including Sun, believe that the biggest hurdle and concern is the future of the Java brand and compatibility. The main fear is that Java technologies could be forked and the "write once, run anywhere" attraction to Java would be lost, making the programming language and platform less attractive. Many see the current Java Community Process, the set of procedures by which companies submit and collaborate on improvements to the Java software, as an imperfect but necessary system.

Brendon Chase of Builder AU reported from Sydney.

1 comment

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Does it realy matter?
Other than a very small number of poeple, I don't see anyone really needs the source code. (Usually it is your competitors want to see your source code the most.) Unless you have full control on future development of the product, otherwise, getting the source code, make your own changes, sooner or later you'll have many different sets of codes to maintain, which could be a much bigger job than other solutions.

There are already too much Open Source software. It is no longer that exciting to see another open source software. It will be much more fun if we can see the hardware companies to open source their chips, curcuit board designs, IPs, ... etc.
Posted by dw7 (7 comments )
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