Antithesis of Proprietary

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-06-28 Print this article Print

But [Sun chairman and CEO] Scott McNealy, in his announcement of your appointment as president and COO, lauded your ability to harness disruptive technologies to gain a market advantage. Whats the disruptive nature of this open-source debate? What are you going to do thats more disruptive than what youve already done? Isnt doing nothing more disruptive than doing something here? It depends on which community youre talking to. If its the Solaris community …
I get the Solaris community idea. Im talking about the Java space.
The very fact that were engaging in the dialogue has been pretty disruptive, and its clearly absorbed a lot of time and attention thats driven awareness of the Java platform, and better yet, thats driven awareness of the open community model that we already use. Which has been painted by some companies, mainly IBM specifically, as somehow proprietary and controlled by Sun. Its quite the antithesis. To Mark Fleurys comments, this is a great community that works. It drives compatibility. Were basically the Apache model being driven by a commercial enterprise. Click here for an interview with Schwartz on Suns settlement deal with Microsoft. Mark Fleury gives as an example that Sun and JBoss employed some creative thinking to solve some of the licensing issues around J2EEto allow them to join the party. Are you going to see something along those lines around open source and Java? What youve seen, and are going to continue to see, is an awareness of a broad diversity of developers and a willingness on the part of Sun to evolve the licensing to encompass as broad a spectrum of those developers as possible—with one very significant proviso: We are unwilling to sacrifice compatibility because we dont want what Red Hat is doing to Linux. There is one supplier of Linux in North America, thats called Red Hat. In the Java world, there are a thousand suppliers of Java, and that is fundamentally creating huge market opportunities for a broad community of companies rather than just one. A few months ago, [J2 lead architect] Mark Hapner said you were taking this issue private, similar to what you did with JBoss. What youre doing now is not private. Whats the goal of hosting a debate at JavaOne? To make sure that were as open as possible with everyone about the diversity of perspectives. Its to educate people. Again, I think weve been painted somehow by IBM as controlling the process, and fundamentally one in which they are highly engaged as an executive member. Rather than worry about a bunch of postings on Slashdot that really dont have a lot of factual basis, were just going to make sure that everyone understands that theres a diversity of perspectives here. To read more about IBMs challenge to Sun on open-sourcing Java, click here. And if that means giving airtime to the folks who really are educated on it, then thats all goodness. Were not really interested in getting into a smoke-filled room and having a private dialogue with IBM; thats not how an open community functions. Let me make sure that you understand: Thats different than having a conversation through the media; an open letter is more like that. This seems to be a response to the thread that was started in the media rather than trying to work through some licensing issues behind the scenes. If this is a political strategy on IBMs part, isnt it unlikely that youre going to get very far either in front of the cameras or behind the scenes in resolving the two positions? But on the other hand, I think it is incumbent on all parties involved to be as clear and open about their perspectives as possible. Clearly IBM is upset about something, and we want to make sure that we give an audience to those issues so we can walk through them. The basic complaints that Ive heard from IBM are that the JCP is slow, that the JCP is controlled by Sun. And those are wonderful myths to pop, as soon as you get the data on the table and you prove that youve made more progress in the Java community than arguably any other industry out there, that youve created BEA and IBM and Oracle and SAP and all these companies benefiting from Java, and moreover are managing its evolution. Were very interested in having an open and frank discussion, but we also want to see a factual discussion with the diversity of perspectives that were trying to serve. The JCP doesnt exist to serve IBMs agenda; the JCP exists to serve the needs of the Java community. Theres no "some companies are more equal than others;" its just a community. Next page: The leveling force of standards.

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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