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By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2003-09-29

Sun Branding Effort Angers Java Crowd

Sun Microsystems Inc. will face fireworks at the Java Community Process meetings and elections this week over its Java branding intentions.

The JCP is holding scheduled elections to replace the current members making up the Micro Edition Executive Committee and the Standard Edition/Enterprise Edition Executive Committee. Both committees oversee the working groups that craft Java standards.

But the elections could be overshadowed by an increasingly anxious developer community, angry with Sun over its announced plans to tack the Java name on specific products—a move Sun has long fought against.

Sun has named its new software stacks after Java—Java Enterprise System and its desktop companion, Java Desktop System—even though the software is not exclusively Java-based.

"From an observer point of view, what theyre doing is innovative," said George Paolini, vice president of Java technology at Borland Software Corp., of Scotts Valley, Calif., and a former Sun executive who used to run the JCP. "As a customer, we were surprised with the approach theyre taking with the use of the Java brand, using it in a way only they can enjoy and others cant. We should be able to come out with the Borland Java Server or the Borland Java brand."

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Another Borland official agreed. "Sun is confusing customers," said Bill Pataky, director of product management for Java solutions. "They are branding products that are not Java. They are diluting the Java brand at the expense of the community."

Paolini made his concerns known to the JCP last week, officials said. A company spokeswoman said she was, however, unsure whether Paolini would make it to the JCP meeting this week in Burlington, Mass.

Some larger Java supporters such as IBM and BEA Systems Inc. declined to comment, but others did not shy from the controversy.

"I dont think theres any problem with the use of Java to label the enterprise system," said Rick Ross, president of Javalobby Inc., a Cary, N.C., Java advocacy organization, who testified for Sun in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. "Rather, the conflicts are about the use of the term in their Java Desktop System."

In a posting to the Javalobby Web site, Ross said: "If Microsoft, IBM or any other company had attempted to use the Java name in this way, there would have been hell to pay. Why isnt the JCP empowered to prevent Sun from what looks like flagrant abuse of the term that they have so often promised to protect the meaning of?"

Next page: Sun: We own the Java brand.

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Onno Kluyt, director of the JCP program management office at Sun, acknowledged the branding issue. "I do expect Suns naming strategy to be discussed [at the meeting]," Kluyt said. However, he added, "the JCP itself does not own the brand; Sun owns the brand."

Kluyt said the JCP elections will fill four ratified seats on the Micro Edition Executive Committee and on the Standard Edition/Enterprise Edition Executive Committee. Sun gets to nominate companies for both slots.

For the Micro Edition committee, Sun has nominated Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., Motorola Inc., Siemens AG and Vodafone Group plc. For the Standard Edition/Enterprise Edition committee, Sun has nominated Fujitsu Ltd., Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Oracle Corp.

Not all are against Suns branding moves. "I am a brand person and as such relate to the rights of Sun to use the Java brand as they please," said Marc Fleury, president of Atlanta-based The JBoss Group LLC. "I wouldnt say it is unfair. However, it is misleading, as other partners have invested as much in the brand. And it is true that the once- dogmatic wall between church and state at Sun on Java may have fallen."

"This is a pretty smart move by Sun," said James Governor, an analyst with RedMonk LLC, in London. "Suddenly, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on marketing Java have a natural connection to the mother ship. On the other hand, one wonders what took Sun so long."

To others, the crux of the issue is fair use for Java partners. "Any J2EE vendor should be able to brand their products the same way. Whats good for the goose should be good for the gander. Hopefully, this effort to co-opt Java as a product brand wont derail the ultimate goal of the Java Community Process—providing a vendor- independent future for Java," said Frank Martinez, chairman and chief technology officer of Blue Titan Software Inc., in San Francisco.

Yet others see the move as harmful and desperate. "I think the Java brand is hopelessly out of control and diluted, and sticking it onto everything Sun sells wont help to turn around their doomed core business—that is, overpriced Solaris boxes now called Java Enterprise System," said Gerald Bauer, an independent Java consultant based in Ottawa. "Sun is dead. Long live The Java Company."

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