By the end of the month, Sun Microsystems plans to offer the source files for its picoJava-II microprocessors free on a new World Wide Web site and by the end of the year will provide the so-called "cores" for two other microprocessors as well.
Sun officially announced the Web site on Tuesday and the extension of its Community Source Licensing model to its chip source files. That licensing program has been available for Java technologies since late last year and is designed to allow tool vendors, chip developers, commercial original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), universities and research institutions to freely access source files.
But sharing cores for microprocessors is "a major departure in intellectual property" in that area, Harlan McGhan, Sun's chief evangelist for architecture, said on Tuesday.
In addition to the picoJava-II core, Sun will make the source files available for its microSparc chip probably in the third quarter of this year and its UltraSparc source files by the end of the year, McGhan said.
So long as those who download the microprocessor cores do not ship products using the chips into commercial markets, the licensing program remains free. Those who do begin to ship products have to obtain a separate licence and pay royalties on units shipped.
"We think this really solves one of the major problems people have, especially in microelectronics, and that's access," McGhan said, adding that now developers and others will be able to obtain the source files for the chips and evaluate and test them to determine how the microprocessors work in various products. Vendors and others who do not now need particular source files can just wait and download them later.
"What we're providing is access to a virtual inventory of microelectronics," McGhan said.
The source files will be available by month's end at http://www.sun.com/microelectronics/communitysource, which was scheduled to go online this week.