Sun's Scott McNealy squashes idea of Java becoming open source
By Matt Whipp
Posted on 4 Jun 2004 at 12:58
Sun's CEO Scott McNealy has squashed hopes that its Java programming language could be made open source, and cast a shadow over Sun COO Jonathan Schwartz's statement yesterday that the Solaris operating system was to go the same way.
At a news conference during the public sector technology showcase FOSE 2004, McNealy said he couldn't understand how open sourcing Java would solve anything.
In February, Eric Raymond, President of the Open Source Initiative, published an open letter to Sun in which he called on Sun to make its Java platform Open Source, describing the company's Open Source strategy as 'spotty' and 'confused'. IBM also published an open letter to Sun with a similar plea.
At a UK conference in March, McNealy joked of such letters: 'They do get looked at. Sometimes with a chuckle.' His comments on demands to open source Java then echoed those he gave at FOSE. 'I don't know what problem that would solve apart from IBM's childhood envy,' he said.
Java is an object-oriented programming language designed to allow the same version of a program to run on multiple platforms without modification by using a Java runtime environment that sits between the Java program and the operating system. Java is the jewel in Sun's crown, as far as McNealy is concerned, because of its pervasiveness. 'There's not one other platform where you can write to it no matter whether it's a cell-phone or the Mars rover,' he said. On rivalries between Java and Microsoft's .Net he said: 'Mankind won, Microsoft lost.'
Sun maintains that open standards are more important and that it has to retain control over the direction of Java to prevent the creation of different implementations that may be incompatible - something Sun accuses Red Hat of having done with its version of the Linux-based operating system.
This doesn't bode well for the chances of open-sourcing Sun's Solaris operating system. While speaking at the SunNetwork conference in Shanghai, China, Schwartz commented: 'I don't want to say when that will happen... But make no mistake - we will open source Solaris.'
However, he said this would be done in the same way that Sun holds stewardship over the direction of Java, which will frustrate many in the open source community.
However, Sun is not entirely against an open source version of Java. It has indicated in the past that it might be possible to relinquish its stewardship position to a neutral governing body that would assure open-source implementations wouldn't 'fork'.
And Sun isn't the only company with the skills to create an open source version of Java. Sun's Chief Technology Evangelist, Simon Phipps, told us in a recent interview: 'Why has no-one else offered to create an Open Source version of Java? Maybe because it's on the 'too hard' list. Sun would support an Open Source version of Java, but it needs a lot of money and time to do so. You can't just flick a switch. Right now Sun has higher priorities in the form of Java 1.5.'
Despite the rhetoric, it doesn't look as if open source implementations of either Java or Solaris will be around any time soon.
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