Free Java: Sun Struggles to Come to Terms with Open Source
During the talk, he demonstrated (with running code) the syntactic benefits of developing in Latin.
Beyond double cheeseburgers and dead languages, one of the most interesting themes for me at OSCON was that of companies and developers struggling to figure out how best to digestor at least plug intothe processes and licensing frameworks that comprise free and open-source software.
Not surprisingly, OSCON attendees seemed convinced of the quality of particular free and open-source software projects, and of the general benefits of the open-source development model, but the potential loss of control that comes with open source is tough for many to swallow.
For me, and for many of the attendees I talked with, one of the most fascinating examples of a company coming to terms with open source is Sun.
This years OSCON was OpenSolaris coming out party. Sun employees were out in force, sporting tasteful (by tech apparel standards) OpenSolaris t-shirts. The conference also featured a bunch of OpenSolaris-oriented sessions.
However, the people at the conference were talking more about Javas open-source prospects than about Solaris prospects.
After all, the conference attendees seemed to be mostly developers, not operating system people, and developers rely more on Java for their livelihoods than on Solaris.
Sun President Jonathan Schwartz made an appearance during the big mid-week keynotes, where he repeated the current Sun line on open-source Java: Sun is opposed to an open-source Java for fear of forking.
Whats interesting, though, is that beating back the calls for an open-source Java looks to be the surest way to ensure that Java forksand the forking has already begun.
On the same day that I watched Schwartz express his concern over a Java divided, I attended a talk given by IBMs Geir Magnusson on the Harmony project.
Harmony is an effort within the Apache group to create a compatible, independent implementation of J2SE 5, and of the Java runtime, under the open-source Apache License.
The next day, I attended a session held by Red Hats Tom Tromey, who spoke on the state of free JVMs.
These sessions boiled down to three basic points:
Compare this to the open-source implementation of .Net, Mono, which has rapidly begun accruing interesting new applications.
Sun should reconsider its stance, however, against taking a more active role in the effort. Suns interested in maintaining a certain level of control over Java, but by gripping it too tightly, the company may eventually lose that control.
Thats because, once a free and complete implementation of Java does exist, its redistribution advantages will give it a competitive edge over Suns official implementation.
If Java were invented today, would it go anywhere if it wasnt freely licensed? I think the clear answer is no, and I think that Sun, as an organization, realizes this as well.
Senior Analyst Jason Brooks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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