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"Sun Should Make Java a True Open Standard," IBM Repeats

"Sun Should Make Java a True Open Standard," IBM Repeats

It began, in earnest, with Rod Smith's open letter to Sun. Then came Bob Sutor's wheeze: Let's Bundle Java Free With Linux. IBM, in other words, has been on Sun's case all year about developing some kind of open source implementation of Java.

Of course Eric S. Raymond has also joined the party, with his own open letter to Scott McNealy: "Let Java Go".

Neither IBM suggestion cut any ice with Sun, which responded that IBM's request seemed "a little bonky."

(Mind you back in June 2003, James Gosling hadn't been quite so dismissive of the idea.)

Now IBM has escalated the call for Sun to relinquish its tight hold of Java, by allowing software supremo Steve Mills, Senior Vice President and Group Executive, and overall head of its Software Group to endorse the idea floated previously by Smith and Sutor.

Sun, Mills said in an interview last week, should allow others to share the task of managing Java. It would increase Java's footprint in the marketplace, he argued:

"Sun has spent a lot of money managing the process, administering the process, creating the test cases, running the test cases. The industry is more than able to bear the burden of managing the process and covering the cost. I think when you spread the cost and expenses], you're able to also more effectively spread the licensing as well, which could improve the marketplace adoption of Java."

Mills's thinking is clearly reflected too in JDJ's exclusive interview - which appears in next month's issue and is already available online - with the 5 general managers of IBM's software group, who all report to Mills.

In that interview, the head of IBM's whole WebSphere product line - General Manager, Application & Integration Middleware Division, IBM Software Group - John Swainson, says:

"We have been stating for years that we'd like Sun to make Java a true open standard, and we remain optimistic. IBM's long-standing support for open source is based on our conviction that openness creates new opportunities and spurs innovation. Open source also gives customers choice and helps them meet their IT needs more quickly and effectively. An open source Java platform would be good for the industry, good for customers, and good for Java."

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Most Recent Comments
Satya 05/10/04 02:10:33 PM EDT

I don''t know why everybody is after Sun to losen its grip on Java. After all it is their product, and they have every right to control it. Will IBM do the samethign with DB2, or any of its proprietary technologies, or any other company do the same thing? I DON''T SEE ANY JUSTICE IN EXPECTING SUN TO OPEN SOURCE JAVA. In fact every other company is more benefited from Java than Sun itself. Leave Sun on its own thought to do whatever way they want to steer the future of Java. It has excellent brains to do so.

Mike Dever 05/03/04 05:51:41 PM EDT

- More IBM Primadonna''s.
- First we get SWT not going thru the JCP
- Then we get IBM Extensions to J2EE not going thru the JCP
- Now, they want Java to be fractured in an anything goes process: Pointers in Java! God save us from the Primadonna''s.
There''s a reason for the JCP: Code Review!
I don''t want hare-brained ideas implemented in Java without a Community Discussion. It''s tough on the ego, of which there are many at IBM, but it''s Great for the Language.

IBM, we don''t need you to do what you did to UNIX.
You should be working on making Java competitive with .NET, thru the JCP,
not trying to get a bigger piece of a much smaller pie.

laura g 05/02/04 06:12:27 PM EDT

Please detail how Sun created 100% of the Java we know today. Don't forget all the runtimes, libraries, etc. So is it really their property in that other people by now have done the majority of the work and then gave it to Sun? Was the JCP just an excuse to get together and party while the Sun engineers did all the work? Finders keepers, losers weepers? This type of attitude is an insult to the hundreds of non-Sun people who did contribute to the JCP.

dog 05/01/04 06:48:09 PM EDT

I think IBM should put its money where its mouth is and offer Sun a way out of its financial troubles (buy it or something) rather than telling it what to do...

Behrang Saeedzadeh 05/01/04 04:45:01 PM EDT

"As it can be seen, Sun is not a friend of the open source community but, simply, it doesn't like to open source Java"

I meant, Sun IS A FRIEND OF... :p

Behrang Saeedzadeh 05/01/04 04:42:01 PM EDT


"If the goal is a single multiplatform language that everyone can use..." If it''s the goal, the game is over and the mission is successful because everyone can use the Java platform, both SE and EE editions.

SQL, as you mentioned, is a good example and it clearly explains why Sun doesn''t like to open source Java: No two SQL implementations are compatible. Just compare MySQL and Oracle and you''ll see their syntax are completely different.

And Java is not the only product from Sun. Sun produces a lot of open source products: NetBeans as an IDE, OpenOffice as an office suite, Java Desktop Linux as an OS, and maybe other products that I''m not aware of. Sun has also helped the Gnome by working on usability problems.

As it can be seen, Sun is not a friend of the open source community but, simply, it doesn''t like to open source Java.

"Sun not acknowledging the considerable investment that others have made in turning Java into an industrial strength language..."

These "others" are not investing in Java just for fun. IBM, as an example, has earned a lot of money by selling their Java related products, possibly more than Sun.

Davis Foulger 05/01/04 11:34:38 AM EDT

If the goal is a single multiplatform language that everyone can use, then administration of that language has to move away from the control of anyone company and toward the normal standards models that are associated with almost all standard languages. Sun is trying to dance a delicate game of maintaining standards processes that look like international standards processes, getting donations of code from lots of players, and still maintaining proprietary ownership of the language. I won''t say that all of the problems that Java has encountered in this dance are a result of this delicate three step. No amount of reasonable behavior on the part of other players would have stopped Microsoft from creating its D flat Java clone when they couldn''t subvert the Java process. But many of the problems that are being encountered now ... and we are moving towards having divergent Java platforms ... are the direct result of Sun trying to exert too much control of the platform; of Sun not acknowledging the considerable investment that others have made in turning Java into an industrial strength language. Indeed, its not clear that keeping things as close as they have is even good for Sun. How much less money might Sun have lost in recent years if the cost of its standards building and reference platform efforts were spread out across other players.

As for other platforms, the argument that IBM should move some of its stuff to industry standards bodies ignores the reality that they have frequently done so, especially where interoperability is an issue. DB/2 implements the SQL standard that IBM released to the industry and does not attempt to control. SGML is an industry standard that IBM released to the industry and does not attempt to control. Eclipse is an open source industry platform that IBM sponsored, does not attempt to control, and uses as a base for its product extensions. There are certainly other examples. I don''t see how the argument applies to other IBM products. IBM''s Smalltalk is written to an external industry standard that exists because Xerox gave up control of Smalltalk. Apache is an industry generated standard platform that IBM supports as a base for its WebSphere and Domino platforms. Both platforms add application functionality to the web using industry standards administered, for the most part, by W3C. Notes has moved from being fully proprietary to supporting web browsers and SMTP/POP. These products hardly seems relevant to the argument.

Frans Thamura 04/30/04 10:59:59 PM EDT

I study the Java market for my business here, and I see, If Sun open source Java, that is good for all of us. But make Java always "one" is the more important. I want Sun commitment to make the Java SDK forever US$ 0. Will you Sun?

Gerry 04/30/04 06:00:02 PM EDT

Davis - I don''t think Sun treats Java like a proprietary language. It created the Java language and platform and the processes they''ve instituted keeps it open and evolving. Anyone can get the source code. And believe it or not, the JVM actually has more OTHER languages that run it that Microsoft has on .NET!

Gaurav - Sun''s JCP has kept them from having a monopoly on the language. They have about as loose a grip as you can have on it. Even if Sun gives it all away, they will still invest time & money in supporting it. BTW, did you ever notice that they bought NetBeans then gave it away? They bought StarOffice and did the same (OpenOffice). They make money off the value-added versions. Java is the freebie that they write lots of software with. They''re not making money off of Java directly, but indirectly. And it makes good business sense to prevent Java from forking, which is about the only control they''re exerting over the language. Everything else has to go through the JCP.

Spanky - I agree with Heinrich; Sun is basicly a steward. They own the Java trademark, but they have given control of Java over to the community. In fact, IBM is one of the biggest contributors. Little known fact that they were one of the biggest developers/pushers of Swing. Later they changed their minds to SWT for who knows what reasons. If Sun owned Java like you suggest, they could have outlawed SWT through various means, but didn''t (unlike Microsoft, who would''ve shafted ''em first opportunity they had).

I think I speak for the majority in saying Java and the JCP are just fine as they are, and IBM''s blowing smoke to either look good to "open source" or they really do want a change in order to somehow make more money off of Java. IBM is a company, it''s goal is profit, so it has to be a motivation outside of altruism. But what''s good for IBM isn''t necessarily good for open-source, the Java community, or industry. Sun should stick to their guns as they have until a way can be found to do what Gosling says, "to safegaurd Java", especially from Microsoft, who would certainly swoop in and make a Java flavor for .Net that isn''t compatible with anyone else''s.

On a side note, I can''t help but think IBM has plans to meld Linux with Java, if Java were to be made GPL-friendly. Although that is an admirable goal, I don''t trust IBM enough to do it themselves. What I want to know is what IBM says they want to do with Java once it''s open-source.

Sunil 04/30/04 04:58:12 PM EDT

Sun has been able to keep "one" java. If making open source ever led to fragmentation of java platform then the entire java community will suffer.

Ed Larmore 04/30/04 03:59:46 PM EDT

Java is Sun''s property plain and simple. If IBM wishes Java to become open source, then I suggest they buy it from Sun at a mutually agreeable price. Assuming Sun accepts, IBM can make it open source. It is easy to ask others to give for free what is not theirs.

Spanky 04/30/04 11:39:49 AM EDT


You develop a widgit. I suggest you make it a different color. Now I can demand you give me your widget?

Sun is NOT a steward, but the owner.

The contributions of the JCP are mutually beneficial, so the particpants have already gained throught the process.

Would you suggest Oracle opensource its database? Do you believe they''d give your suggestion any serious thought? Would BEA? IBM?

No, I think you are confused as to the nature of property, and the difference between community process and ownership.

heinrich 04/30/04 11:25:50 AM EDT

You are confusing products with what is supposedly an industry-developed technology. Sun is the steward of the JCP. They did not create all of Java as it exists today, the industry did, including companies like BEA and Oracle. No one is asking them to open source Solaris. If Java is to be everywhere and supported by almost everyone, then it should be open sourced.

Spanky 04/30/04 11:23:25 AM EDT

For those of us old enough to remember the old "Our Gang" series, this reminds me of the neighborhood bully, Butch, walking up to the smaller kids and demanding their slingshot.

"But we made it ourselves!", They cry!

"That don''t mean nothing! You can''t shoot good anyway! Hand it over!"

It seems that Butch has grown up and now works for IBM.

Behrang Saeedzadeh 04/30/04 10:41:01 AM EDT

Open sourceness is great but it's not very easy for Sun to decide to open source Java or not. Sun may lose money more than that way than it's currently losing.

Should we enforce IBM to open source DB2, WebSphere, Domino, and Notes? Does IBM like to do it? I guess not.

So why are we heavily insisting on Sun to open source Java?

Making Java open source is great but if I were McNealy I only would do it for cash rewards from, say, IBM, BEA, and some others. Something around $2 or $3 billion ;)

Ahhhh. BTW - Is IBM''s implementation of Smalltalk open source?

Frans Thamura 04/30/04 03:15:42 AM EDT

I see Websphere Micro Edition is US$ 5.99, why? what is the hell IBM doing with this? Kill Sun? but you must make it free also. Sun did for his JSDK for free, but your Micro Edition?

What is the difference for customer?

I am glad if Java can be open source, and every company around the world can put it in his mobile devices, and make the mobile phone is cheaper, because we dont have to buy the runtime which IBM do for his Websphere Micro Edition

Gaurav Tuli 04/30/04 02:31:11 AM EDT

Java as a programming language should not be a soul monopoly of a company though it has been involved in bringing it to light and the language driving internet today.The language itself is platform independent so sun should also ideally loosen it''s grip and bring other companies into picture.This will also reduce sun''s maintenance and development costs and make the company more
involved in thinking about future and java and work on projects which will help leverage java to be a better lanaguage for projects.

Davis Foulger 04/29/04 11:43:33 PM EDT

Industry standards really only work when Industry works together. Proprietary standards for languages generally doom those languages. IBM learned that the hard way with PL/1, RPG, and other fine languages that were never widely adopted. The longer Sun treats Java as a proprietary language, the more likely it is that something else will replace it.

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