Sun: Door still open on open source Java

While acknowledging obstacles remain, a Sun Microsystems official on Tuesday left open the possibility that Sun might offer its Java programming language under an open source format.

Speaking during a Sun Software Summit in California, Sun's Rich Green, vice president of the developer platforms group at the company, acknowledged IBM's February open letter proposing the open sourcing of Java. But he stressed there are complex issues pertaining to ensuring compatibility if Java was offered up to open source. Sun would be very favorable to an open source destiny for Java if compatibility and other issues, such as brand and license management, can be addressed, according to Green.

"Neither IBM nor Sun knows if it's feasible to fulfill the (open source goal) and meet the constraints," Green said. However, Sun continues to talk with IBM about the idea, he added.

Another Sun official, John Loiacono, senior vice president of operating platforms, expressed a less-optimistic viewpoint. He noted previous Sun pronouncements that Sun would make Java open-source as soon as IBM opens up its products such as WebSphere.

Green, though, retorted, "We're not going to do anything out in the open until we have some clarity."

Sun officials at the summit meeting touched on multiple topics, including the company's new emphasis on the consumer market, security, and technologies such as the Looking Glass 3D desktop technology still in development.

Sun envisions that its N1 computing platform will enable a grid-based computing world in which owners of the systems can sell off compute cycles, according to Jonathan Schwartz, Sun executive vice president for software.

"Our belief is that the evolution of our technology and our core platform around the N1 grid is going to enable the resale of computing cycles," Schwartz said.

Schwartz, touting Sun products such as its Java Desktop System, also described a business trend in which technologies win out by starting at the bottom and then grow in volume. This trend may favor Intel hardware and the Linux operating system over Sun's comparable offerings while Sun overtakes Microsoft in software, according to Schwartz.

Sun officials noted the Sun Java Studio Enterprise development platform will be available via the Web on Wednesday.

Sun in early-April plans to release Version 3.6 of its NetBeans open source Java IDE. Version 3.6 includes features such as an interface redesign for more intuitive and improved workflow and an improved look and feel for increased visual appeal. Another feature, code folding, is intended to allow for easier source code navigation.

Sun's Loiacono also noted Sun's Project Janus, which is software intended to enable Linux applications and binaries to run unmodified and un-recompiled at near-native speed on Sun's Solaris OS. Project Janus provides Linux users with "preservation of investment while moving up to the Solaris OS," Green said.

The company on Tuesday again noted its Looking Glass 3D user interface technology for PCs, which is to be part of the Java Desktop System software package. The technology may be made part of the GNU open source effort, according to Sun.

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