The companies are considering merging Microsofts Passport and the Sun-backed Liberty Alliance identity management methods, Fowler said. "But this is less about what we would do and more about the idea of ceasing hostilities and exploring options," he said. "We just dont know yet. What weve signed is a broad agreement. We have this great opportunity here to make our products work well with Microsofts."
Still, during the settlement announcement, Fowler, along with McNealy and Ballmer, insisted that the companies will continue to compete vigorously. "Fundamentally, the companies are competitors," Fowler said. "Where were now headed is coopetition. This doesnt suddenly make us buddies."
Despite the earnestness of Microsofts and Suns executives, some developers and other industry observers are not optimistic.
"I think what Microsoft means by interoperability ... is that Sun will do whatever it takes to make Java and other Solaris software work with whatever application and enterprise software Microsoft releases," said Ken Warner, an independent Java developer in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. "What I expect to come out of this deal is about the same as what has come out of every other deal Microsoft has made with anybody: nothing.
"There will be a lot of foot dragging and false starts on integration and API definitions that Microsoft will supposedly supply to Sun so Sun can waste precious engineering resources chasing ghosts. But really, nothing has changed. This agreement is really just a head fake," he said.
"I was not a happy camper about the apparent blackmail, and it looks like Sun used the legal system to squeeze cash out of Microsoft," said Stephen Forte, CTO of Corzen Inc., in New York. "But if they say that they will end the war and make their products all work better, then I am all for it."
Of course, not everyone agreed. Ultimately, the new Sun-Microsoft relationship should be a "win-win for developers, regardless of which camp you spend most of your time in," said Jon Rauschenberger, a .Net developer with Clarity Consulting Inc., of Chicago. "For the Microsoft camp, it brings resolution to the uncertainty around support for Java in Microsoft tools and should promote a greater level of interoperability between .Net and J2EE [Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition]. For the Java camp, it frees Sun up to continue improving support for Web services in the core Java products."
Additional reporting by Eric Lundquist, Stan Gibson and Peter Galli, in Redmond, Wash.
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