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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.




"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)




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