Sun Microsystems took another step toward making Java free Monday, announcing that developers who ship products based on Sun's source code will no longer have to pay royalties to Sun.
Sun's move applies only to Java 2 Standard Edition and its compiler--developers must still negotiate terms for shipping products based on Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition and Micro Edition, which are due out next year. Developers must also still pay to pass Sun's compatibility tests and to use Sun's engineering support services. However, Sun VP George Paolini said Sun is looking at ways to make the compatibility tests cheaper.
In a keynote at Sun's Java Business Conference in New York, Sun CEO Scott McNealy said Sun, "will continue to refine Sun's open licensing model in interesting ways." He also asked for feedback from developers on the best way to move Java forward, claiming Sun has a track record of being "open, inclusive and participatory."
"The problem with standards bodies is they can be influenced by the dark side," said McNealy, in a reference to Sun's battle with the European industry association ECMA over whether Sun can maintain its copyright through ECMA's standards process. "They can be very political and they need money to run and they have to listen to their constituents, which change over time. [Sun Software President Pat Sueltz] has a difficult challenge in finding the right body for Java."
McNealy said Sun needs to maintain flexibility on Java for the sake of its shareholders and that it must occasionally, "grab Java by the scruff of the neck to move it forward. But we're not secretive, deceptive, non-participatory or expensive--except to us. We're losing money on Java. We need feedback, and not jealous feedback, but feedback to try to make Java better. But we're not going to say yes to everything our competitors want."
McNealy also asked for more time to flesh out Sun's tools strategy, calling the information Sun will provide this week "a little thin." Sun recently acquired both Forte Software and NetBeans and is meshing those products with its other tools as well as products from the Sun-Netscape Alliance. He stressed Sun's commitment to XML, announcing a Java Application Programming Interface for XML parsing driven through Sun's Java Community Process, and to Java on Linux. And he said that last week's reorganization under Pat Sueltz will allow "better engineering and development."
McNealy urged developers to take a chance on Sun, saying they should be writing Java applications for sub-PC devices now even though the platform-Java 2 Micro Edition-is not final. "You have to leave the duck here and shoot so the bird flies into the buckshot. The first developer out always has an advantage over the tenth. Ask Motorola or Nokia or Sony if they're going to have Java on their devices-you'll get a clear, unambiguous answer."
He also delivered his usual Microsoft bashing and plugged StarOffice, which he emphasized is free, as a way to "unleash information trapped in Microsoft file formats. It has more features than any of you need to learn to use. If you run out of things to do on StarOffice, you need to get a life," he said.