March 10, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Newsmaker: What's wrong with the Java community process?See all Newsmakers
Now IBM software is a $15 billion business, happy to use its market clout to influence standards and push open-source software.
But where does a $96 billion behemoth find rapid growth? For IBM, the answer lies in emerging markets around the world and among midsize companies. That's why winning over developers and application providers is a critical goal for IBM's software chief, Steve Mills. The senior vice president and group executive recently spoke with CNET News.com about the company's strategy and weighed in on what he thinks is wrong with the Java community process.Q: I've spoken with some people who say IBM is fed up with the Java Community Process (which oversees changes to Java). Is IBM dissatisfied?
Mills: We've been vocal on how we think the Java Community Process can improve. It's a community process as long as Sun (Microsystems) agrees with what the community decides to do. Our position has been Java would be better served if it existed in a more democratic standards process, rather than one where one company had super-majority rights over everyone else.
I think the community process works well at times. And at other times it gets bogged in, "Well, what does Sun want?" It ceases to be less a community at that point. But we knew that going in, so there's nothing new there as far as this issue is concerned. We have the view that the market of Java licensees--and for that matter, even Sun--could be better served by an alternative approach. They incur a lot of expense today they would not have to incur if the process operated differently.
Sun has voiced concerns that a change to the process, such as an open-source project model, would result in forking of the standard. Do you think that's a valid concern?
Mills: Well, no. That's silly. Standards can be sustained through standards bodies. If something is Java, it's certifiable to be Java and could be called Java only if it's certifiable as Java. Otherwise you're in violation of a trademark. That can be enforced through a standards-body structure, just as it can be by an individual (company), so I don't see that as a problem.
As open-source products move into more and more areas, will there be more pressure on your low-end Express line? Will you have to charge less for it down the road?
Mills: I'm already as cheap as anything out there. I have no problem with (open-source database company) MySQL, (open-source Java application server) JBoss or those things. I price at the same level for that level of use.
But those products are still worth your development investment?
Mills: The efficiency of development brought on by componentization and design means that for very nominal increments, I can take the basic structure and apply it at the lower end of the market and afford to put a very low price on it. And I hope that, frankly, some customers at the bottom will want more function over time.
The IBM software group has acquired many companies in the past few years--
Mills: We've bought 40 companies in ten years.
How do you choose which companies to acquire?
Mills: We're not buying out of the blue. It's not "Gee, that's interesting, maybe I should buy it" kind of thing. It's not spontaneous purchasing behavior at all. It's a well-thought out set of notions about things we think we need in our portfolio to meet customer requirements. The acquisitions have worked well as a technique, because we choose
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