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Sun opens access to Java code

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MOVE AIMS TO HELP DEVELOPERS INNOVATE, RETURN FIRM TO PROFITABILITY

Sun Microsystems, in a move that should placate critics and please software developers, on Tuesday finally committed to provide free access to the software code of its popular Java programming language.

Sun was short on specifics -- including when the code will become available or how that process will unfold -- but underscored the desire to make the software industry's dominant programming language an open source while ensuring Java remains compatible with other technologies.

``At this point, it's not a question of whether. It's a question of how,'' said Rich Green, Sun's new executive vice president of software. ``We'll go do this.''

The long-awaited announcement was tucked into a 1 1/2-hour keynote speech that kicked off Sun's JavaOne conference in San Francisco. The 11th annual gathering of software developers from around the globe is expected to draw about 14,000 participants through Friday.

Some observers characterized the decision to open source Java as necessary, but challenging.

``It's easy to put something out there under an open-source license,'' said Brian Behlendorf, chief technology officer of CollabNet and co-founder of an open-source server software called Apache.

But he added, ``Competing on an open-source basis is a lot more difficult than competing on a pure proprietary IT business.''

But many also say Jonathan Schwartz, a software veteran who was promoted to Sun's chief executive spot three weeks ago, is the right leader to oversee this difficult adjustment as the company struggles to return to profitability.

Over the years, the Santa Clara-based company -- built upon selling computer servers, storage, software and services -- has slowly provided the source codes of its technologies that complement Java. But developers have been clamoring for open access to the programming language itself to help them write code more quickly and easily.

``The problem with Sun's leadership in the Java community process is there's friction there because most of the members of the community who have to license products from Sun want more freedom,'' said Daryl Plummer, an analyst at Gartner. ``Sun hasn't allowed that very much.''

When analysts and reporters later pressed Green for details on Sun's plan to open source Java, he said it's impossible to peg down a date because ``this has to be done as a group. The community process is critical. . . . I don't expect this to be an endless endeavor.''

CEO Jonathan Schwartz jumped in, saying, `` `As soon as possible' is what I think he said.''

Plummer had expected Sun to make Java an open source within a year.

``They're in a situation where they recognize the value of innovation,'' Plummer said. ``The only thing that stops them is making sure the people who license Java and the people who use Java are not impacted negatively,'' which could happen if the code is translated in ways that make it unrecognizable and unusable, he said

In The Mercury News, 17 de Maio de 2006


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