Will Sun Open-Source Java?

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-04-30 Print this article Print

The debate inside Sun over whether to take Java open source is coming to a head as the JavaOne conference looms May 15. One of new Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz's first chores will be to manage the scrum and gauge the future of Java.

New Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz's first 100 days at the helm are about to get interesting. First up: managing an internal debate over whether the company should open-source Java.

According to sources inside Sun, an ongoing debate over whether to open-source Java is coming to a head with the JavaOne conference looming May 16. Schwartz, who led the open-sourcing of Solaris, could not be reached for comment on the matter.

A former Sun exec calls on the company to open-source Java. Click here to read more.

Nevertheless, opponents of the idea are trying "to get time with Schwartz now that he is CEO so they can get their point of view across before the JavaOne conference in May, where some speculate he may announce the open-sourcing of Java," said a source close to Sun who requested anonymity.

What Schwartz will ultimately decide on Java remains to be seen, but it's another item on his long to-do list. Schwartz, who took the reins from Scott McNealy April 24, has to keep Wall Street happy and structure Sun so it will be consistently profitable. Sun hasn't reported an annual profit since 2001 and had a loss of $217 million for the fiscal third quarter of 2006, which ended March 26.

Meanwhile, skeptics of Schwartz abound. Financial services company JP Morgan, of New York, issued a research note April 25 that said it is "concerned that Jonathan Schwartz may bring less change to Sun than an outside candidate could have."

For his part, Schwartz remains confident. "First, we're in an industry that is only going to grow. For the rest of our lives, the network is only going to expand, as is the demand for the products which Sun builds. Sun is in a great position today to capitalize on this network growth," he told eWEEK in an e-mail interview. "We're ready to deliver."

Against that backdrop, Schwartz will have to weigh the future of Java. Schwartz has not balked at making some big decisions in his previous roles at Sun, most notably getting the Santa Clara, Calif., company to reverse course and commit to a version of Solaris for x86 hardware, and later open-sourcing the company's flagship operating system.

So far, Sun has resisted many calls to open-source Java. The reason: Sun fears doing so will open the doors for competitors to grab and change Java, resulting in the kernel forking and compatibility problems.

John Loiacono, Sun's former executive vice president of software, who recently took an executive position at Adobe Systems, of San Jose, Calif., admitted as much in an exclusive interview with eWEEK. "One of the projects we were working on was how far we should go with opening Java, to the point of absolutely open-sourcing it. But we always came back to the question of who we were ultimately appeasing with the move and how such a move benefits Sun customers and shareholders," Loiacono said.

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Read the full story on eWEEK.com: Will Sun Open-Source Java?

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at www.eweek.com.


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