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Sun promises to open source Java

Sun Microsystems is planning to release the source code of the Java programming language, chief executive Jonathan Schwartz said at the JavaOne conference in San Francisco.

"It's not a question of whether we'll open source Java, the question is how, " Schwartz told delegates in his opening keynote at the tradeshow.

By releasing the source code, Sun hopes to attract a new group of developers who previously refused to use the language because of the software licence, Schwartz later added.

The debate about open sourcing Java has been raging for years and was in part fuelled by IBM. Sun has so far resisted calls to release the code over concerns of fragmentation and forking.

A group of developers could split off from the main Java community and form a second, independent group that follows an independent course. This could lead to confusion with developers and cause Java to lose focus.

The dozens of Linux distributions often are considered a prime example of forking gone wrong. Because each distro is different, software developers are forced to certify their applications for each distribution.

This has allowed Red Hat and SuSE to become the de facto commercial Linux standards.

IBM has argued that releasing the Java source code could attract more developers to the language because it guarantees that Java will continue to evolve independently from Sun.

Sun has already released significant software portions around Java including the Glassfish application server.

Java is close to being completely open source already, Rich Green, Sun's newly appointed software boss, argued on stage at JavaOne.

But the company has yet to figure out how to prevent fragmentation while embracing the open source model. "The challenge is to balance all those things, " he said.

Green called on developers and members of the Java Community Process to provide feedback on the best way to open source Java. He did not say when he expects open source Java to be available.

James Governor, a principal analyst with RedMonk, told vnunet.com that he still expects Sun to pay much attention to prevent forking. "Sun will still obsess over it, but it's less of an issue than it's made out to be," he said.

Governor pointed to the speed at which Sun was able to get the latest version of Java EE 5 approved by the Java Community Process, an initiative that allows software vendors including IBM and BEA to provide input on upcoming Java standards.

Whereas in the past new Java versions led to prolonged discussion, this version was essentially "rubberstamped" by the JCP members, Governor argued.

The speediness illustrates that Sun will be able to release new Java versions much faster, allowing the vendor to stay ahead of any open source competition.

Sun promises to open source Java - Wednesday, May 17, 2006 -

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