Sun to make Java open source by year-end

update Company will include key components of its Java platform as well as J2ME, as part of its open source game plan.
Written by Aaron Tan, Contributor

update Sun Microsystems has confirmed plans to open-source key components of its Java platform by the end of this year.

This follows an earlier commitment, pledged at the JavaOne developer conference in May this year, to make the company's popular Java programming language open source.

During a teleconference with local reporters this morning, Sun's co-chief technology officer Bob Brewin said Sun is planning to release "functional pieces" of the Java platform to the open-source community, progressively.

"We expect to release significant pieces of [Java's] functionalities no later than the end of this calendar year," he said.

While Sun has not decided on which Java components it will make open source, Brewin hinted that JavaC, a software compiler, and Java Hotspot Virtual Machine, might be included in the company's plans. Both are key features of the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE).

In addition, Brewin said Sun's open-source efforts will extend to its Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) development platform for mobile and embedded devices.

"There is a shift toward open source in embedded devices," he said, noting that the Nokia S60 Web browser is already based on open-source software. "The [telecoms] carriers have been quite enthusiastic about our [open-source efforts]," he added.

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Brewin did not reveal which open-source license will govern Java, but said Sun has narrowed its choices to a handful of OSI (Open Source Initiative) approved licenses. He added that the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL), which is used by Sun's OpenSolaris operating system, may not necessarily govern the use of open-source Java eventually.

To ensure compatibility between multiple variants of Java that may emerge out of Sun's open-source efforts, the Java Community Process (JCP) will continue to be enforced, Brewin said. Launched in 1998, the JCP is an open, inclusive process to develop and revise Java technology specifications, reference implementations and technology compatibility kits.

Furthermore, Brewin said open-source communities are "self-correcting". "If you look at other open-source projects such as Apache, the community will correct and police itself," he explained. "They are the people who build software on top of the [open source] platform, and they can't afford to have strange pieces of software or incompatible versions."

Brewin also reiterated Sun's open-source game plan. "In general, open source is good for business," he said, noting that doing so will eliminate market barriers especially in cases when governments have policies that mandate the use of open-source software.

"It will also improve the quality of [Java] with more people having eyes on it," he said.

When contacted, Microsoft said it does not expect Sun's latest announcement decision to have any impact on the "existing relationship" between the two companies.

Chris Levanes, platform strategy manager at Microsoft Asia-Pacific, told ZDNet Asia: "Microsoft is firmly committed to our interoperability efforts. In fact, in April 2004, Microsoft and Sun entered into a broad IP (intellectual property) licensing and technology collaboration agreement, aimed at enabling our products to work better together to the benefit of both our customers and partners."

"We continue to work closely with many open source vendors, such as JBoss (now Red Hat) and SugarCRM," Levanes added.

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