Sun Offers Backstory on Java Transition

Reporter's Notebook: In a nutshell, Sun simply wants to build volume into its IT development; however, despite all the open-source positioning, Sun still will maintain the option to develop proprietary code if the case presents itself, even though

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—Although it may get some disagreement from IBM, SourceForge.com and Linus Torvalds, Sun Microsystems laid claim to being the worlds largest contributor to the open-source software community Nov. 13 by turning over millions of lines of Java code to the governance of the GNU General Public License, v2.0.

And not a moment too soon for software developers worldwide and some of their more well-known open-source spokespeople, including Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman, publisher Tim OReilly and intellectual property attorney and professor Eben Moglen.

"This is less about the code itself than it is about building volume in the network effort: The more people that join a network, the more valuable the network gets," Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz told a gathering of Sun employees and guests in the auditorium of the companys Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters.

"Its like what happened to the fax machine, cell phones and the Internet connectivity: Were going to build volume—more developers, more devices, more businesses, more of everything—based on giving this code to the community," Schwartz said.

Schwartz noted that there have been 6 million licensed open Solaris downloads since Sun open-sourced its homegrown, Unix-based operating system in Q1 2005; 4 billion devices—mostly Java-enabled mobile phones—that use some form of Java; and 5 million-plus Java developers roaming the Earth.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about Suns Java phone.

"Few folks, at least outside of Sun, understand how pervasively successful the Java platform, and the community supporting it, have been over the past decade," Schwartz wrote in his blog.

"But Java runs on more devices than Microsoft Windows, Linux, Solaris, Symbian and the Mac combined. Nearly 4 billion devices at this point, from smart cards to consumer devices, DVD players to set top boxes, medical equipment, all the way up into the majority of the worlds transactional systems and 8 out of every 10 cell phones sold. The Java platform is, already, a global standard."

The net result of all this: Weve had a remarkable resurgence at Sun the last couple of years, Schwartz said.

"Our revenues are way up, our customer numbers are up. This [open-source Java] will greatly enhance all four of our businesses—software, systems, storage and services. More participation [from the development community] means a rising tide of innovation, and a rising tide lifts all boats in the ocean," Schwartz said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifTo read more about Sun open-sourcing Java, click here.

Java creator James Gosling, a Sun research fellow who is out on medical leave following minor surgery, wrote in his blog Nov. 13: "Im really happy that after months of arguing and analysis, we finally agreed on using the GPL version 2 with the classpath exception as the license for JavaSE.

"Were also taking the first couple of baby steps in getting actual source code relicensed. All of it will follow, eventually. But theres a lot of work to do ... "

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 10 years and more than 3,500 stories at eWEEK, he has distinguished...