Simon Phipps, Sun Microsystems Inc.s chief technology evangelist, addressed a somewhat wary crowd at the EclipseCon 2004 conference here Thursday and told them that although Sun has no intentions of making any Eclipse products, the company would still be interested in joining the Eclipse Foundation if certain "business conditions" were met. He added that "secret negotiations" continue.
Phipps gave a talk on open source and the value of diversity in the Java community. The address, however, was in a setting where the key question among many was whether Sun would join Eclipse—the company has been openly considering it for more than six months.
When questioned about the subject at the end of his presentation, Phipps took the question head on: "IBM and Sun compete with each other," he said.
"Sun is not going to use Eclipse...Sun doesnt intend to produce an Eclipse product," Phipps said. "Today, I think the best thing would be for the newly independent Eclipse to join the Java Tools Community (JTC) and then have Eclipse join the Java Community Process (JCP)."
Phipps said there is room for both Suns NetBeans open source development platform as well as Eclipse. "Our strength lies in our diversity and were here to make the Java market succeed."
Phipps comments echoed those in an open letter Sun sent to Eclipse last week. In that letter, Sun said: "The Big Picture is a Java technology solution that ensures no lock in to a given platform, one that generates competitive markets and technologies, and one based on standards. That way developers, deployers and consumers continue to have choice and benefit from technological diversity."
Phipps today added that "diversity is our shared strength. Eclipse could not have happened on .Net."
In addition, he hinted that Sun may be doing more on the open-source front. When asked whether Sun would be doing an open-source implementation of Java or parts of the Java platform, Phipps replied: "Youll just have to come to JavaOne [conference] now wont you?"
Yet Phipps bristled somewhat at the suggestion that Sun was somehow being unfair. "I disagree, I think Java is already open sourced. Why hasnt IBM given its implementation of Java to the open-source community?" he asked.
Meanwhile, Phipps credited Sun as being a spur for the open source movement.
"I believe the open-source movement was triggered by the release of Java in 1995—because of the ability to just go get the code and use it," Phipps said. He also said that "Sun is the largest open-source activist after [the University of California,] Berkeley," which spawned much of the technology that underlies open-source operating system and networking technology.
Addressing the knock that Java is not standardized, Phipps said Java is standardized in the only way it could have been standardized in 1995, and added that "the JCP has been a good steward of Java."
Yet, he said he understood some of the criticism about Sun having a heavy hand in the JCP but offered to the audience that it is an incorrect perception.
"In the early days of Java, Sun employees were the spec leads on most JSRs [Java Specification Requests], but thats not true today," Phipps said.
Otherwise, Phipps discussed the nature and history of open source. "Open source is the methodology of the massively-connected era," he said.
The benefits of open source include good returns on investments, software quality is as good or better, and lock-in is avoided, he said
However, the number one factor in going with an open-source solution is choice and freedom, he said. "People use open source because they want to be free to choose again."