US Report: HP's real-time Java causes break in ranks

Java developers remain sharply divided over Hewlett-Packard's latest attempt to wrest control of the Java standards process from Sun Microsystems.

HP (NYSE:HWP) says the Real-Time Java Working Group -- which includes Microsoft , NewMonics and eight other vendors -- will meet on Thursday to select a standards body to oversee development of real-time extensions to the Java application programming interface.

The specification could differ from Sun's if the latter (Nasdaq:SUNW) chooses not to work with the group, says HP marketing manager Byron Ryono, meaning Java's Write Once/Run Anywhere promise is threatened.

The HP contingent broke with Sun late last week after attempts to present a unified front at this week's Embedded Systems Conference in San Jose fell apart. About 40 vendors, including Sun and HP, were working under the auspices of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The vendors were supposed to deliver guidelines to Sun, which would then turn them into a specification along with partners. Sun will announce soon more open processes for how companies can participate in defining Java.

IBM (NYSE:IBM) is backing Sun and disputes HP's charges that Sun's processes are closed. "We haven't seen HP announce a process, and we continue to work to make sure the industry can come to an agreement on a common, open, standard API. Sun has a lot more meat to what they're doing," says Jan Jackman, IBM director of Java software.

An engineer from Rockwell Collins also expressed doubts about HP, despite his company's backing of the HP group.

"You speak of choice, but give no details on your definition of process," wrote Christopher Legan in a posting on the NIST Web site. "Misdirection, ambiguity, and division of effort are your enemy, not Sun. "You need developers in your camp ASAP... they don't care what process you use to generate the spec. Frankly, they don't care about vendor neutrality either. They want something that is not a moving target."

Sun vice president Jim Mitchell says Java creator James Gosling will become involved in real-time Java, which also requires extensions to the language and Virtual Machine and APIs for interfacing to Real-Time Operating Systems.

"HP is a licensee and we continue to work with them, although some days they speak as a licensee and other days as a company that's done a clean-room implementation. Suing is awful," Mitchell said. And in the background stands Microsoft, which Sun has sued over the who-owns-Java issue. Microsoft is now excluded from Sun's processes and could not be reached for comment. However, a Sun spokeswoman said Sun is checking Microsoft's Software Developers Kit for Java for Windows CE for incompatibilities and will add it to Sun's lawsuit against Microsoft if appropriate.

Meanwhile, a demonstration of real-time Java at this week's Embedded Systems Conference has gone forward. IBM, HP, Sun, QNX Software Systems Ltd. and several other companies are showing robots interacting in real time. The proof-of-concept is intended to show Java's ability to function in environments in which timing, accuracy and predictable responses are critical. HP and Sun first broke at Sun's JavaONE developers conference in March, when HP developed an embedded Java clone and began signing its own licensees.