McNealy: Open-Source Java Unlikely

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-03-25

McNealy: Open-Source Java Unlikely

Will Sun Microsystems Inc. open-source Java or wont it? According to comments made by its chief executive Wednesday, the answer is likely not.

During a news conference at the FOSE 2004 show in Washington, McNealy said it is unlikely Sun will open-source Java. According to a report by Government Computer News, McNealy spoke of IBMs invitation to Sun to join Big Blue in developing an open-source implementation of the Java platform.

According to the report, McNealy said: "Go open-source with DB2, and then you can tell me what to do with my assets," referring to IBMs popular database system.

In addition, McNealy said Sun is unsure what providing an open-source implementation would actually contribute to the community. "Were trying to understand what problem does it solve that is not already solved," McNealy said according to the report.

Last month, IBMs vice president of emerging Internet technologies, Rod Smith, sent an open letter to Rob Gingell, Sun chief engineer, vice president and fellow. Citing an eWEEK article as inspiration, Smith said IBM is ready to work together with Sun on an open-source Java.

In the article Smith cited, Simon Phipps, Sun chief technology evangelist, asked: "Why hasnt IBM given its implementation of Java to the open-source community?"

Smith wrote in his letter: "Simons comment appears to be an offer to jointly work toward this common goal. IBM is a strong supporter of the open-source community, and we believe that a first class open-source Java implementation would further enhance Javas position in the industry by spurring growth of new applications and encouraging new innovation in the Java platform."

Bob Sutor, IBMs director of WebSphere Infrastructure Software, in a recent interview with eWEEK, said, "We need an absolutely official open-source implementation of Java."

Sutor said IBM is not trying to change things right away. "Were trying to walk before we run on this," he said. "Were not looking for the world on Day One."

But what IBM is offering is "to put people on this and to donate source code."

Next page: Sutor: IBM has proven its open-source mettle.

Page Two

Sutor said IBM has proven its open-source mettle with its experience with the Eclipse open-source Java-based development platform, its success with Linux, and work the company has done with Apache.

In addition, Sutor said an open-source Java implementation would spur innovation and help generate revenue for developers. "This would be a boon for Linux," he said. "If every Linux distribution had a full implementation of Java, it would spur innovation. The money is not in this base-level plumbing, its in what you add on top."

When asked whether IBM would be as willing to create open-source versions of its OS/390 or z/OS, Sutor said: "Were not suggesting Sun open-source its directory software or proprietary stuff. Java is already in the JCP [Java Community Process]. It is already a community process that many people have contributed to. Its a mistake to look at it as though Sun is the sole author, and this is not any of their proprietary products."

Moreover, on the issue of Sun ceding control of Java should an open-source implementation surface, Sutor said: "Theyll have less control, but they speak very highly of Linux," noting that Linux is not controlled by any one vendor but many benefit from it. "This is the logical next step in progressing the platform."

Sun could not be reached for comment.

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