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Java may be free under GPL -- but end-to-end development remains the holy grail

Several new Eclipse-based projects are emerging that provide a strong framework for device development, and the theme is a common framework everywhere. Indeed, the mash-up of open source Java and Eclipse is very exciting. This new Eclipse activity augments and burnishes the Java ME platform, especially as its runtime (if not the community and tools) go GPL open.

While an open-sourcing of Java ME under a GPL license has exciting implications for hardware vendors to ease the porting of JVMs, other announcements today offers developers ease in crossing the gap between enterprise-class development and the exploding market for device-level development. It turns out Eclipse as an end-to-end development framework could get the job done -- faster, better, cheaper.

While Java under GPL gets a lot of headlines -- let's not forget Sun is three years late in partially opening Java ME and SE and could have led the open source market rather than trailing it  -- the reasons for opening Java include the vision of end-to-end ease in developing and deploying software. Indeed, when Sun began floating trial balloons more than two years ago about open sourcing all of its software, a chief rationale was an "end-to-end" benefit of Java everywhere.

Oh, did I mention: I told you so. (Good week for gloating, we have a Democrat-controlled Congress and GPL Java -- sweet!)

In any event, several new Eclipse-based projects are emerging that provide a strong framework for device development, and the theme is a common framework everywhere. Indeed, the mash-up of open source Java and Eclipse is very exciting. This new Eclipse activity augments and burnishes the Java ME platform, especially as its runtime (if not the community and tools) go GPL open.

As part of the Eclipse Device Software Development Platform (DSDP) initiative, with strong backing from Wind River Systems, the release today of Target Management 1.0, Embedded Rich Client Platform (eRCP) 1.0, and Mobile Tools for the Java Platform (MTJ) 0.7 not only gives device developers strong debugging, target management and mobile tools for Java ME. They provide a unifying effect, by allowing the same Eclipse IDE framework and APIs to be used up and down the development and deployment hierarchy -- from server to PC to device.

So manufacturers may innovate on top of open Java ME using Eclipse, a common tools platform -- a very good start to a rich, innovative ecosystem. Others may find commonality too, such as Harmony and Apache projects, ala the recent Motorola move to move its JVM to Apache.

This ecology of innovation may get a further boost if Sun opens the Java Community Process (JCP) in the same way it's opening Java ME, SE (and later EE) runtime implementations via GPL. You may recall from the Sun Java announcements today that the JCP still runs the Java creation governance mechanisms, ie controls the tools and framework source code. One of the apparent values of Eclipse is its community governance approach, which provides a level playing field and encourages wide participation and adoption. Let's hope that as Sun moves even more in the orbit of GPL open source that the JCP becomes more like Eclipse in governance.

Another interesting element of the DSDP initiatives is that next on the agenda appears to be an embedded Linux set of projects that can offer the same end-to-end, common development framework benefits up and down the deployment hierarchy but on Linux (also, of course, under a GPL distribution). This sort of sets up a (friendly?) competition among Java ME, embedded Linux, and the commercial RTOSes. Super -- choice, competition, community -- just what is needed to foster productive, standardized, market-driven innovation.

Can we be approaching a future where a Linux kernel runtime, a Java virtualized deployment framework, and an Eclipse development framework work together -- up and down the runtimes hierarchy from tiny RFID sensor to datacenter? Or, if you wish, go all Java, all Linux, or all hand-rolled or commercial. Or mix and match.

Now that's something to get excited about. I can forsee where Java developers can create code and services that get truly wide use and reuse, where UIs only need a tweak to move from modality of device to any end-point UI, where burgeoning libraries of open and free components can be used more widely than ever. Sort of sounds like SOA.

Disclosure: Wind River and Eclipse Foundation are or have been sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts. 

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