Open-Source Java? Not If but How

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-05-16 Print this article Print

At JavaOne, CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Senior VP Rich Green say they will look to the community to determine how best to open-source Java.

SAN FRANCISCO—It is not a question of whether Sun Microsystems will fully open-source its Java technology, but rather how it can best do that, according to newly appointed Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Senior Vice President Rich Green. Schwartz, who delivered the opening JavaOne keynote to a packed house of several thousand people here May 16, said his first act as CEO was reaching into the future by reaching back into the past by bringing Green back to Sun as executive vice president of software to replace John Loiacono, who recently moved to Adobe Systems. Read why Rich Green came back to Sun.
Asked by Schwartz if he was going to open-source Java, Green quipped, "When Scott [McNealy, former Sun CEO and current chairman] used to do this to you, did you enjoy it?"
But his response was that the question is not whether Sun will open-source Java at this time, but how it will do it. "So we will go and do this," he said, adding that Sun will work with—and look to—the community to determine how best to do that." In an earlier interview ahead of JavaOne, Schwartz told eWEEK that he is a huge fan of open source and of lowering the barriers to entry for developers and customers across the world. He said he also believes that position does not contrast with where the Santa Clara, Calif., company is headed with Java. If Sun goes down the path of open-source licensing Java, it would use an OSI (Open Source Initiative)-approved license, he added. IBM, one of Suns harshest critics and fiercest competitors but also a sometime partner, welcomed the companys commitment to fully open-sourcing Java. Rod Smith, the vice president of emerging technology at Big Blue, in Somers, N.Y. said the company "applauds Suns action to commit to open-sourcing Java, as the technology can thrive from collaborative innovation." For more than 10 years Java has grown in popularity, but the rate and pace of innovation had been limited by the degree of openness Sun was then willing to embrace. "IBMs offer from two years ago still stands to help Sun open-source Java," Smith said, referring to his open letter penned in 2004 calling for Sun to open-source Java. Next up to the stage was Ed Zander, CEO of Motorola, who is widely believed to have left Sun in 2002 because he was denied the CEO job. Zander told the JavaOne audience that Motorola is moving as fast as it can to a Java and Linux platform. When asked in a May 2002 interview with eWEEK whether the reason he was leaving Sun was because he had not been offered the CEO job, Zander said, "I dont think its that black and white. … I knew Scott [McNealy] was committed to Sun for a long time and that it probably wasnt ever going to happen, so I factored that in over the years. "When I thought Id done enough at Sun and done the things I wanted to do, it was a natural thing as this was the last job unless Scott got hit by a truck, and he didnt intend to get hit by a truck, so youve got to move on," Zander said at the time. Read more here of eWEEKs interview with Ed Zander. At JavaOne, Zander said, "Java needs to remain a unified platform so developers only have to write their code and applications once. We also need to address security and some other issues." Schwartz and Zander sparred a bit, much to the enjoyment of the audience, with Schwartz asking Zander if he was coming back to Sun, saying that there had been "quite a boomerang" back to the company recently. Zander retorted by asking Schwartz if he had a job for him, to which Schwartz replied, "I actually may have." Schwartz then called Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux, on stage. Ubuntu is "bringing the best of free software to the desktop," said Shuttleworth before announcing that Java is now available to Linux developers. Ubuntu is also introducing a server product on June 1 that will support Suns new UltraSPARC T1 chip, formerly code-named Niagara, which launched in the fall of 2005, but which some critics and competitors have called "a niche player without wide appeal." Read more here about Suns T1 chip. In the earlier eWEEK interview, Schwartz said the Sun and Ubuntu teams have been working closely together on integration, admitting that "historically the Linux distributions and Java have always been a little bit oil and water and there is an emulsifier now so we can collaborate in a much more interesting way." Ubuntu running on Niagara is "an utterly profound change in Suns system strategy. We have been working on this for some nine months and have seen tremendous adoption in the community to help make this happen," Schwartz said. "This isnt what Sun has done; this is what the community has done, and by virtue of what happens in OpenSPARC, they have all the tools and technologies they need to ensure that Ubuntu runs well on Niagara," he said. While Sun has also been providing a lot of technical assistance, anything a developer needs to run on Niagara is available on OpenSPARC. "You know, its under the GPL [GNU General Public License], its totally out in the open," he said. Next up to the stage was Marc Fleury, the founder and CEO of JBoss. Fleury wore a red beret, symbolizing the fact that his company is in the final stages of being acquired by Red Hat—a deal that is expected to close May 31. Read here what Red Hat CEO Matt Szulik had to say about the JBoss acquisition. "We havent decided whether to call it JHat or Red Boss," Fleury quipped, before announcing JBoss support of NetBeans. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.
Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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