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Sun To Open-Source Java

At the JavaOne conference on Tuesday, Sun Microsystems said it plans to open-source Java once it works out the logistics.

Java

"At this point, it's not a question of whether. It's a question of how," said Rich Green, Sun's recently returned software chief, in an opening keynote address at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

The announcement drew cheers from the audience, although Sun gave few details about how or when it will transition Java to open source. Much of the platform's source code is already publicly available, and significant chunks of Java have been released under Sun's Common Development and Distribution License (CDDL) open-source license. Advocates of open-source Java seek greater community control over the platform's licensing and development path.

Decisions about Java's fate won't happen within a matter of days, but the process of working out the open-sourcing details won't be endless, Green said in a press briefing after the keynote. Despite emphasizing that all options are under consideration, Green suggested that Sun isn't likely to hand over its key Java intellectual property to an independent organization.

"Intellectual property is Sun's lifeblood, and generating new IP is what we're all about," Green said. "I'm not sure that would be the best model for ensuring that, but it's certainly something we'll consider."

One analyst at JavaOne said he sees the open-source move as largely ceremonial. "I hope Sun moves onward with it quickly, because I'm really bored with the question," said James Governor of RedMonk. Since so much of Java is already publicly available, the main result of formally open-sourcing it will be to assuage developers with religious aversions to working with non-open-source technology, he added.

New Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz took that line as well. "At minimum, those who have said they won't use Java unless it's under an OSI [Open Source Initiative] license will be able to use Java," he said. "It just grows the tent. What happens next? That's the beauty of open source. You just don't know."

Schwartz offered few remarks of his own during his JavaOne presentation, instead using it to host a series of cameos by Sun executives and partners spotlighting new initiatives.

One highlight was Sun's release of a new operating-system distributor's license for Java that will allow Linux distributors to bundle the Java runtime and Java Standard Edition 5 development kit. Ubuntu, Debian and Gentoo are among the distributors that announced bundling plans. Ubuntu creator Mark Shuttleworth took the stage with Schwartz to cheer the announcement--and to hint that the upcoming server version of Ubuntu, due out next month, will run on Sun's Niagara servers.

Sun also showcased some of the advances in Java Enterprise Edition 5, released Tuesday, and placed an assortment of its middleware into its open-source portfolio, including Sun's Java Studio Creator, BPEL Engine and Java System Portal Server.

Asked how Sun's open-source moves will affect his plans to staunch Sun's red ink, Schwartz said his top priority is to grow the Java market and cash in on the opportunities that a broader community presents.

"If you want to know what the best leading indicator for the health of Sun Microsystems is, it's attendance at this conference and the health of our developer tools," Schwartz said. "Revenue is a lagging indicator."

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