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VNU Net: Sun moves to open up Java

By Lisa Kelly, VNU Net

Sun Microsystems is in talks with key partners to discuss
the opening up of the Java standard amid mounting industry pressure
to loosen its grip on the technology’s future.

The software company is meeting with Java’s largest licensees,
including IBM, BEA and Oracle, to consider “opening up a couple of
key control points in the whole process”, said a Sun
spokeswoman.

She would not elaborate, but said that “the big news is we
finally have something on paper. It is a first draft of what the
next Java Community Process (JCP) might be.” “There have been lots
of complaints that the JCP is not open enough. We are listening to
licensees, but it will be slow, as any change will be
consensus-based. It could be the first of 50 drafts,” she
added.

Last December, Sun backed out of handing over Java to the formal
standards body, the European Computer Manufacturers Association
(ECMA).

Previously, the company claimed that maintaining ultimate
control over the direction of Java is the only way to avoid
violating the source code.

The spokeswoman said the “entire community,” including smaller
licensees and big corporate users such as FedEx, will be invited to
comment if the talks go well.

An advisory group made up of the Java community, which will have
final say over changes to the Java specification, is one of the
options being discussed.

“We are throwing up the idea of an advisory group to our key
partners. We need to determine its make-up, capacity and voting
behaviour and discuss what its role would be compared with the
existing role of the expert group,” said the spokeswoman.

The key partners are first to be consulted “because they are the
most vocal and have the most skin in the game”, she added.

Martin Brampton, an analyst at Bloor Research, said: “I’ve been
talking to vendors who won’t commit 100 per cent to Java as they
don’t want Scott McNeally [Sun’s chief executive] writing their
business plans for them.”

“Sun has to convince the industry that it is serious this time.
It can’t afford to do what it did with ECMA; one minute committing
and the next pulling out. Java has to be in the hands of a credible
group that isn’t dominated by Sun or the importance of Java will
diminish.”