Watching for Suns Next Move

Opinion: Two of the major proponents of keeping Java under the guardianship of the Java Community Process-John Loiacono and McNealy-are out of the picture.

Its an annual question as JavaOne approaches—will Sun announce an open-source Java? This year, the question is being asked again, but with added significance, reports eWeek Senior Editor Peter Galli. Scott McNealy is out as CEO; Jonathan Schwartz is in. Schwartz is a software guy and an open-source advocate. He spearheaded the opening of Solaris, albeit under Suns own license and not the more widely distributed GNU GPL (General Public License).

All the signs are there for Sun to finally free Java. Two of the major proponents of keeping Java under the guardianship of the Java Community Process—John Loiacono and McNealy—are out of the picture.

On April 4, Schwartz told an audience at the Open Source Business Conference, "For us, open source is capitalism and a business opportunity at its very best." In an interview with eWeek editors Feb. 9, Schwartz spoke about Suns early success in opening Solaris and other software: "The expectation was that after all software was free and open source, our revenue would go down. Our revenue didnt go down, but adoption in the pipeline went up," he said.

Which license Sun chooses for Java is the next big question. Many open-source advocates grumbled about Suns CDDL license. But in his Jan. 27 blog post, "Thinking About GPL3...," Schwartz wrote, "Weve begun looking at the possibility of releasing Solaris (and potentially the entire Solaris Enterprise System [which includes products based on Java]), under dual open source licenses."

Throw in the Java language and run-times, and releasing it all under the CDDL would give Sun the intellectual property protection it craves; GPL 3, if it is embraced, would enable "diversity and choice" and open Java to a larger developer ecosystem.

This is Schwartzs moment. He has the opportunity to do what so many have urged Sun to do for years. As Gallis story points out, Java is getting eclipsed by other technologies that already are open. Java is not a moneymaker for Sun, but its trademark, which Sun could still license, is.

The question isnt why open Java anymore, its why not? With Sun coming off another quarter in the red and a change at the top, IT observers and Sun investors are expecting change, big change. This could be that change.

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Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...