By eweek  |  Posted 2004-07-19 Print this article Print

-sourcing Java "> Ive read responses on this from you, but Ive never asked it: Whats your position on open-sourcing Java? Its complicated. Its really complicated. In general Im a really big fan of open source. But one of the big values of Java, if you go out and survey people, is the whole thing around interoperability, reliability, and that its solid and you know what it is.
When we try doing surveys of folks we actually get more responses from people saying dont open-source it than saying do open-source it. The people who say do open-source it tend to be really loud. The people who say dont open-source it tend to have big pocketbooks and what they care about is having a stable, reliable platform. So we tend to want to do whatever sort of works best for the developer community. And on average thats about stability.
And I like to think of the way weve handled Java over the last years as being essentially open source. Anybody can go to the Web site and get the source to J2SE [Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition], the whole nine yards. Youve been able to do that for a long time. So the source is certainly available. You can take that source and you can make all kinds of changes to it. All the open-source projects have licenses of some sort and ours has a license. And it basically says you cant redistribute it unless you pass the compatibility tests, because we actually care about compatibility and reliability. Simon Phipps [Suns chief technology evangelist] basically said that at EclipseCon and I wrote that story and there was a bunch of commotion, including finger-pointing and the open letter from IBM [asking Sun to open source Java]. But he basically said just what you just said. Right, and so the hidden agendas are everywhere here, and theyre actually not very well hidden. Why did Rod Smith [IBM vice president of emerging technology, who wrote the open letter to Sun] say that? I mean it doesnt make a difference to IBM. Because IBM has all the sources. The only thing that IBM is constrained by is the compatibility testing. So are they saying that they dont want to be compatible? Now thats the only thing that they would get, is the right to be incompatible. And yet if you push Rod to the wall and say, "So Rod, are you saying you want to be incompatible?" Hed go, "Uh, no." Because you just know that if you went and talked to developers, if he told developers that he wanted to make IBMs Java incompatible with everybody elses Java, the development community would crucify him. So are you saying its not Rod whos talking? Its hard to tell whos talking. The problem with any corporation is that its actually a collection of people, and IBM is a huge collection of people. I mean IBMs ten times the size of Sun, with ten times as many people arguing. Never ever mistake a corporation for a coherent entity. Next page: On the back burner.


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