Sun Loosens Restrictions on Java

On the eve of the JavaOne conference, beginning June 6 in San Francisco, Sun Microsystems announced it was taking a conciliatory stance by revising its "community-based process" for developing new Java technology. Sun's tight control over Java has drawn complaints from a number of industry players, including IBM and HP.

In revising the process, Sun has established two new interim Executive Committees (ECs) to oversee the Java Community Process (JCP) program. One EC will oversee Java technologies for the desktop/server market and will have responsibility for the Java 2 Platform, Standard Edition, and Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition technology specifications. The other will oversee Java technologies for the consumer/embedded space and will take responsibility for the Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition technology specification. The two new ECs will approve new technology proposals for further development by Java working groups. Previously, Sun alone had power of approval.

While Sun's move means it is loosening some of its restrictions on Java, the company will remain "steward" of the technology. As far as some vendors are concerned, Sun hasn't gone far enough. IBM, for example, still maintains that Java should be an open standard. (Earlier this year, Sun squashed efforts to leave the Java standardization process in the hands of an industry group.)

Big Blue, like HP and BEA Systems, has balked over paying the licensing fees Sun charges for the right to carry a Java-compatible brand. In fact, HP broke with Sun over the licensing of embedded Java and developed its own Java technology for embedded systems (Chai).

Nevertheless, IBM and HP signed on as EC members, joining Sun, Apache, Apple, BEA, Caldera, Compaq, Fujitsu, IONA, Inprise, Insignia, Matsushita, Motorola, Nokia, Novell, Oracle, Palm, Philips, Siemens, Sony, and Wind River.

Oracle, which had delayed licensing Java 2 for six months, apparently was mollified enough by Sun's decision to announce it was licensing the Java 2 Platform Enterprise Edition for use in its database, application server, and development tools. And Sun issued a lukewarm statement from HP, quoting Linda Lawson, general manager of HP's Applications Development Organization. "HP's end-to-end strategy of delivering e-services includes comprehensive enterprise Java application development solutions for our partners and customers," Lawson said in the statement. "By becoming an Executive Committee member of the Java Community Process program, HP will be playing a pivotal role in defining, influencing, and promoting the enterprise Java specifications to best serve the interests of the Java technology communities, including our customers and partners."