Print 15 comment(s) - last by Zirconium.. on Nov 16 at 5:40 PM

The industry begged, and Sun delivered

Today in what the company is calling a “historic” move, after much speculation and hinting from Sun, the company announced that it is releasing a number of key Java implementations under the GPLv2 Open source license. Sun has released Java Platform Standard Edition (Java SE), Java Platform Micro Edition (Java ME) and Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE) under the GNU General Public License.

Doug Fisher, General Manager of Systems Software Division at Intel had the following to say on Suns move “Intel is very supportive of Sun making Java technologies available as open source software. This move signals a new and positive step in the evolution of the community efforts around Java and helps developers to actively participate in enhancing the Java platform as well as creating the next generation Java applications.”

Mark Shuttleworth, Founder of Ubuntu, also chimed in saying “I think when you combine the industrial expertise of Sun with the enormous almost infinite creativity and adaptability of the free software community, we’re going to see something really powerful emerge as a result. This is an act of leadership and to a certain extent courage. But I expect it to pay off and be an enormously positive thing for them.”

Java support has been severely on the decline since the advent of .NET and the rise in popularity of more flexible scripting languages, but its place in academia and very large corporates has assured it will stick around a while.  With the new open source initiatives it seems likely Java will actually flourish again.  Specifically, under the GPL license many Linux distributions are free to distribute Java as part of the core distribution.  Under the old Java licenses, redistribution of Java was not permitted, and users had to download the software post-install.

Distributions like FreeBSD will still not include Java in its base installation as BSD falls under an incompatible license with the GPL.  However, the FreeBSD ports tree does support GPL software, and we can also expect to see more applications using Java there as well.

In 2001, Sun successfully sued Microsoft for releasing a distribution of Java that included modifications from Microsoft.  Under the new GPL license, Microsoft (in theory) would be free to once again release this Java distribution, so long as the company provided the source code.

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What's the benefit
By Gooberslot on 11/14/2006 5:59:06 AM , Rating: 2
I fail to see what Sun is going to get out of this.

I'm also afraid that now we're going to see several incompatible versions of Java floating around.

RE: What's the benefit
By copiedright on 11/14/2006 6:50:01 AM , Rating: 4
By moving Java to open source it allows developers better use of it, while lowering costs to encourage industry to increase Java's use. Sun currently makes most of its profit in hardware and service support, so by doing this they are effectively increasing their market base.

RE: What's the benefit
By Master Kenobi on 11/14/2006 8:22:02 AM , Rating: 2
Java is really a poor solution now. Its fine for the work I do with Oracle, but .NET is pushing its way in all other venues that Java used to control. No offense to Sun, but Java started going down hill when they sued Microsoft for having their own virtual machine. Now, Java is struggling to survive in niche markets. As a C++ Programmer, I personally hate Java, but thats just me. Unfortunately right now only Java sits on top of an Oracle database without too much difficulty.

RE: What's the benefit
By Zirconium on 11/14/2006 5:38:55 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it started to go down hill when Microsoft made its own incompatible virtual machine. Java has a number of powerful features, one of which is the ability to interrogate objects allowing you to add new classes on-the-fly.

RE: What's the benefit
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 9:13:23 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, it started to go down hill when Microsoft made its own incompatible virtual machine.

You seem to imply causality, which is clearly not the case. Sun's wounds are entirely self-inflicted. They were years ahead of Microsoft and everyone else in terms of having a platform-independent, managed virtual machine, with good security, and they squandered their lead. They also single-handedly gave away billions of dollars worth of technology for pennies on the dollar. Brilliant business management - NOT.

RE: What's the benefit
By Zirconium on 11/16/2006 5:40:53 PM , Rating: 2
Get your facts right. First off, most people didn't have the Sun JVM installed because they just ran IE with the default VM. This VM was not the same as the Sun one, and this caused compatibility issues. For most applications this was not an issue, but I have seen things break on one VM but not the other. This proved to be a problem when Microsoft had to retract its VM, and people downloaded the Sun JVM. This has colored many people's perspectives. This is not the only time Microsoft has tried to hijack a standard; just look at how many sites are designed specifically for IE.

As for the giving away technology for cheap: if you want the enterprise version of JDK, then you need to pay Sun. Otherwise, they give it to you free, which makes sense because you can't introduce a new programming language if you expect people to pay for it. If Sun had the ability to charge programmers tomorrow, most people would just switch to another language. Java isn't the only game in town, and even if it was, that can change fast.

RE: What's the benefit
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 9:07:49 AM , Rating: 3
I disagree - I think what you really have is that Sun is finally throwing in the towel, after years of failing to monetize their Java IP. You can tell from their restrictive, expensive licenses, as well as their proactive lawsuits, that Sun intended to keep Java a closed, proprietary system for years to come. But they never figured out a business model that would allow them to gain market share and grow revenue with Java.

So the only good I can see to Sun in this "last resort" open-source effort is to gain additional goodwill in the software development community. This may help them sell more support contracts (that may offset some of the loss of licensing revenues), but I don't see this having a significant effect on the sales of their other products or services.

As Master Kenobi pointed out, Microsoft is eating their lunch with .NET on all fronts. Microsoft's runtime, along with their compelling set of languages (especially C#), development tools, and services, is a very compelling value proposition for corporate IT developers to consider.

RE: What's the benefit
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 8:58:21 AM , Rating: 2
I'm also afraid that now we're going to see several incompatible versions of Java floating around.

You have that already today - most of the time when Sun releases new Java versions, both major versions and maintenance releases, lots of applications get broken. Most Java apps of significant size require a particular release of Java.

But I agree with you, that it has the potential to get worse, if other organizations should decide to start releasing JVMs. Worse yet, the possibility of splintering if some organizations decide to add their own extensions that don't end up back in the main development, similar to the concern Sun had when Microsoft did that prior to the lawsuit.

RE: What's the benefit
By Rayz on 11/14/2006 1:44:52 PM , Rating: 2

You obviously have never programmed in Java, or if you have compatibility problems between versions, you may need to take a few more classes in th basics.

Having been involved with Java apps, both desktop and web, of all sizes, I have never seen this widespread app breakage that you're trying to elude to. Why? Because they never remove APIs and th JVM bytecode structure has remained pretty much unchanged for nearly ten years.

Your other point about incompatible JVMs is, unsurprisingly, incorrect as well. Java has a dual license; the commercial version remains as is, and folk are free to use and change the GPL version. Sun retains control of the specs and also the JCP is still responsible for future enhancements. Since the license is GPL, then you actually can't add stuff without releasing back to the community, and if it doesn't pass the compatibility suite, you still can't call it Java.

Anyway for 99% of the Java development community (and most jobs sites I visit indicate that is is several orders of magnitude larger than the .NET development community), it will be business as usual. The only real difference will be that Linux distros can now use Java without the fear of whatever has been bugging them all these years. Should be good for 'em, since Mono may not look quite as attractive as it did a few weeks ago.

RE: What's the benefit
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 1:55:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, I've programmed in Java, but I'm talking about large commercial applications. For example, look at the Java compatibility requirements MATLAB - it works properly under only certain versions of the JVM. This is typical of what I see for large commercial apps. For custom apps, I've seen worse, where maintenance releases break compatibility, not because of API changes, but because of subtle behavior changes in the JVM.

RE: What's the benefit
By TomZ on 11/15/2006 5:35:27 PM , Rating: 2
I happened to be doing some work with MATLAB today, and I came across this note in their online help:

MATLAB is only fully supported on the JVM that it ships with. Some components might not work properly under a different version of the JVM. For example, calling functions in a dynamically linked library that was created with a different JVM than that used by MATLAB might cause a segmentation violation error.

FreeBSD Can Ship Java
By ergle on 11/14/2006 11:01:22 AM , Rating: 2
It being GPL'd doesn't matter to FreeBSD -- if it did, they wouldn't be shipping GCC et al in the base distro.

RE: FreeBSD Can Ship Java
By edpsx on 11/14/2006 11:24:32 AM , Rating: 2
Wasnt there a big stink about JAVA and IE between Sun and Microsoft awhile back? And now they go open source????

By Spar on 11/14/06, Rating: -1
RE: The best IT news
By TomZ on 11/14/2006 1:50:22 PM , Rating: 2
Tell me why a lot of people use Java, there is Net framework 2.0, i think it's better, and more usefull.

Not sure why you got modded down for that question. Anyway, while I personally do prefer .NET 2.0 instead of Java because of productivity, you have to recognize that Java has a strong advantage in server apps because it is multi-platform and can run on Linux, Unix, Windows, etc. This is more important in the server market since it is more evenly divided between these different operating systems, unlike the desktop OS market. Since the desktop OS market is nearly all Windows, people developing apps targeting just desktop would benefit from .NET over Java.

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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