With his management team reshuffled, Suns president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz sat down again with eWEEKs Steve Gillmor to discuss Suns contributions to the open-source community, the Sun-Microsoft deals impact on DRM, identity management and visual development tools, and the strategic role of Suns auto-update technology in the emerging real-time enterprise platform.
Steve Ballmer told eWEEK editors the deal had nothing to do with Linux, that it was only about Solaris. Doesnt that differ from your perspective?
No, not in the least. I think what hes focused on is ensuring that Microsoft is paid for the protocols that are licensed when delivered in commercial products. But clearly, great portions of Suns products are built with the contributions made by the open-source community—for example, StarOffice.
Should we license technology from Microsoft, it would clearly advance the interests, for example, of the Java Desktop System, and if thats running on Linux, then that obviously helps the underlying Linux community as well as the overall growth and viability of open-source technology.
Just remember, there are a great number of non-open source technologies in the open-source community that add value to the open-source community. Ill give you one very good example: RealPlayer. RealPlayers not open-source, but its availability certainly enhances the value of our Java Desktop System. Macromedia Flash—not open-source—clearly enhances the value of the Java Desktop System.
Adobe Acrobat Reader—same idea. One of the values that Sun has represented for an awful long time is our ability to synthesize work from the open-source community with work from the standards community, and ultimately drive both to deliver value to our customers.
On a practical level, if Steves saying these licenses are only for Solaris, how do you release the same code across all three platforms?
StarOffice, as an example, runs on almost all platforms shipping today. There is work done in the open-source community to advance StarOffice, but certainly Sun stands behind and indemnifies StarOffice. To the extent that we license protocols from Microsoft, we would be including them in StarOffice—and not obviously distributing them free of charge—just as we do today with RealPlayer.
We incorporate RealPlayer into the Java Desktop System, but we dont go delivering it out into the GNOME community to add value to.
How do you leverage the Unix licenses you already have as they relate to the Microsoft relationship?
There is nothing that precludes us from taking the protocols we license from Microsoft and incorporating them into our products. Now, where those products run is up to Sun. So, if we take a license from Microsoft, theres nothing that precludes us from incorporating that technology into our Java Desktop System.
Again, we are competitors, and it is every bit in our interest to see how many Windows users we can migrate into the Java Desktop System, as it would be for Microsoft to see how many Java developers they can try to sway into the .Net world.