Java Lobby Leader Keeps Close Watch on Sun

Rick Ross wants reassurances that Sun will continue to be "a neutral steward of Java."

The leader of a prominent Java user group Tuesday called on Sun Microsystems Inc. to deliver assurances that its stewardship of Java not turn into partisanship.

Rick Ross, president of the 70,000-member Java Lobby said all the recent changes occurring at Sun give him pause over the prospect that the company could possibly begin to seek to gain more from Java than it has in the past. Ross spoke with eWEEK at the TECHXNY shows Web Services Edge conference.

"I think Sun has demonstrated over many years a solid track record of remaining committed to the original vision to its role as the steward of Java technology in a way that has been largely blind to Suns specific economic interests," Ross said. "At many points in time, Sun could have leveraged its position to steer things to its own profit, but have maintained dedication to having unprecedented support for Java."

However, "Now that Sun is for the first time unifying all of its software operations in one business unit, and especially in light of the financial challenges Sun faces in the stock market, I just cant be sure that Sun will remain true to its strong track record of being a neutral steward of Java," Ross said. "I want some reassurances."

Ross added, "Any time you see major changes of the level that Suns doing, theres room for some concern." He noted the departure of Ed Zander, Suns former president, and several other key executives, the shifting roles of Pat Sueltz from software to services and other executive moves as reasons to be wary. "You have to say thats quite a lot of change."

To be fair, Ross said: "I see no cause for alarm. In fact, I see some great signs of positive things to come--but Ill be watching. I want to look out for whats good for developers and for customers and end users."

As for reassurances from Sun, Ross said: "Id like to see fundamentally reiteration. Smart leaders often make clear through acts and through words."

In addition Ross offered his views on Microsoft Corp.s decision last week to include a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) in a service pack for Windows XP this summer. He called it a "thinly veiled" attempt to win favor with the judge overseeing the case Sun filed against Microsoft, and called the JVM "obsolete and crippled."

Ross, who was deposed by Microsoft for the current Java lawsuit its fighting against Sun, said he believes Microsoft has been shown guilty of having harmed Java in the federal antitrust case where a remedy is now being considered.

"The findings of [U.S. District] Judge [Thomas Penfield] Jackson suggest that Java never had a chance to go where it could," Ross said. While Microsoft achieved most of its success through competition, Ross said, "Microsoft also achieved a lot of its success by behaving illegally and by breaking the backs of competitors. So that casts a light on all of their success."

Indeed, said Ross: "It is no more right for Java to have to compete with .Net now than for Nancy Kerrigan to have to get on the ice and compete with Tonya Harding after being hit in the knee. Because Microsoft, like Tonya Harding, did hit Java in the knee with a baseball bat."