Sun To Open Java Code

    July 6, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Developers thriving in the open source community have been hounding Sun Microsystems for a long time to open up the code to its widely-used Web language, Java. A surprise conference announcement last week reveals that day is coming, even if not as soon as initially thought.

BusinessWeek Online reports that Sun’s Simon Phipps told a group of eager listeners that the company would publish Java’s code within months. But that shouldn’t be interpreted as an immediate transition, as is what happened widely throughout the blogosphere. Instead, developers should expect the lid on Java to be opened in just under a year.

Though Java was king of the Web in the 1990s, the new millennium has seen the emergence of competing languages like PHP. As the use of Java is whittled away, a product that was expensive to maintain and brought in slim margins to begin with becomes less and less profitable for Sun.

And that looks bad on Wall Street.

The BusinessWeek article reported that Sun employs 1,200 engineers to maintain Java at a cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year. In the past, despite Java and its open source Solaris Unix operating system, Java has been thought of as primarily a hardware company peddling servers. And it still is that. Sun has great plans for its next generation servers.

But since renowned pony-tailed software guru Jonathan Schwartz took the helm at Sun as CEO, people have speculated that the company will broaden its open source and software-as-a-service type offerings in addition to its traditional hardware development.

Executive Vice President Rich Green told CNet to expect Java to be opened up “pretty quickly”:

we fully intend to do it. It makes perfect sense. It kind of removes from the system the noise or the angst of Java in terms of access and flexibility. So that’s a big deal. Now the compatibility issue is a risk, but I think it’s a risk well worth considering taking. Not only is Java more advanced than, I think, any other open-source software in terms of compatibility testing, the availability of (testing suites) and other things like that, but the number of applications out there is so enormous that they tend to drive compatibility.