Open-Source Java Could Pose Problem
Following the pledge of Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz to make Java open-source, others within the company are warning that incompatibilities could result. While this isn’t sure to happen, a Sun executive feels it is a strong possibility, and must be guarded against.
“I do not think anyone wants to break Java compatibility, but any of the large licensees with the market power to distribute their own version technically could do so, intentionally or unintentionally,” said Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer at Sun.
“You can find a market embracing something because of the market power of the supplier rather than because of the purity of the technology. That is why we, as the Java community, have to remain vigilant as I don’t believe anyone would be dumb enough to make an outright attack,” Phipps continued.
This doesn’t represent a turnaround on Sun’s decision to open-source Java, though. Commenting on how long the process might take, Philips estimated it would be less time-consuming than the Solaris operating system open-source effort. A full year passed before Sun gave up rights to Solaris after pledging to do so.
Sun has several projects in the works related to the open-source version of Java. The company recently announced agreements with Ubuntu and Debian Linux teams, along with three OpenSolaris-based projects, to distribute the Java Development Kit practically unfettered with their operating systems.
Sun also announced a new license-the Distribution License for Java-that will replace the old binary license for Java. The previous version had several clauses toxic to GNU Linux distributions.
Returning to the topic of open-source Java, Phipps concluded that it is desirable, and entirely possible, to keep it compatible. “I don’t think there is any inherent discontinuity with making Java open-source and keeping Java compatible. Compatibility must be seen as preventing any party from taking unfair advantage of the marketplace, so that the customer gets the best value proposition.”
With Sun keeping an eye on things, maintaining Java compatibility hopefully won’t prove to be much of a problem.