Sun Mulls Its Next Java Moves

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-05-22

As Sun Microsystems ponders its next steps on the road to open-sourcing Java, it is acutely aware of the concern among developers and customers that compatibility be maintained going forward.

"Developers tell us that while open-sourcing Java would be nice, they don't want us to rush the process and [not maintain compatibility]. So we will watch that closely," said Rich Green, executive vice president for software at Sun, during an interview with eWEEK at the annual JavaOne conference here May 16.

At the conference, Sun said taking Java open source is a matter of how, not when.

The plan moving forward is the "attraction and use and scale of the NetBeans community, as we know that if developers are using NetBeans to write applications, [the applications] will be compatible, so that is a big deal," Green said.

Sun will also be counting the number of downloads of core Java technologies such as Java EE (Java Platform, Enterprise Edition).

"We will count that and get a sense of repeat use. We will monitor the discussion areas to get a sense of the feedback, and we will count the number of members and participants in the JCP [Java Community Process] and so get a sense of scale and stickiness there," Green said.

The level of involvement with the JCP was an indicator of the desire to maintain compatibility, Green said.

The act of open-sourcing and licensing was "trivial. It is the measures that give us the confidence that developers and customers will be fulfilled with regard to their desire for compatibility," Green said.

While open-sourcing Java does, indeed, have value for some parts of the Java and open-source communities, such as the Linux distributions where the current license is the obstacle to further scalability, the needs and wishes of the community members that have brought the technology to where it is today will be listened to very closely, he said.

"I am more trusting in the masses and their means of evaluating motivation, which will give us some direction about who to listen to more closely," Green said. There has been some concern from the outside that the process was not necessarily being driven by individuals, which was why Sun opened up the JCP for individual access, he said.

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