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Tough Choices Ahead For Java Council

The shape of Java-based business applications and perhaps Java itself may have a new face as early as next week, according to Java Community Process (JCP) officials.

The non-partisan community that oversees the programming language is holding its annual elections between now and November. The group is also considering changes to its operating procedures via the JCP 2.6 proposal and deciding on final revisions of the highly anticipated J2EE v1.4 standard, which is the basis of Java-based Web services and championed by Sun Microsystems .

The JCP has two Executive Committees (EC) -- the Standard/Enterprise (SE/EE) and Micro Edition (ME). Each targets different markets for the Java Platform. Voting Members on each EC serve 3-year terms. There are ten ratified seats, five elected seats, and the permanent seat held by Sun. The 3-year terms are staggered so that 5 of the 15 seats are normally up for ratification/election each year. The EC members guide the evolution of the Java technologies. The EC represents a cross-section of both major stakeholders and other members of the Java Community.

This year, Sun is suggesting that the seat currently held by PalmSource go to Panasonic, Motorola, Siemens or Vodafone. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker is also recommending that the current SE/EE seat go to Fujitsu, HP, IBM or Oracle. The membership will have an additional seat to fill this time around as Canadian company Zucotto Wireless has folded its business this past year.

"Vodafone is a new suggestion. Industry representation in the service providers category to the executive committee is a more balanced representation to the Java community," JCP director Onno Kluyt told internetnews.com.

Nominations begin next week with final voting scheduled for November. The nominating process does allow for companies to nominate themselves.

Kluyt said he is also noticing a shift in the makeup of the now 700 members of the JCP. The group has been growing since it was formed five years ago. At the beginning of 2003, for example, membership hovered around the 600-member mark and companies no longer hold a monopoly on the membership.

"A third of the JCP is made up of individual members," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if the individual membership will replace many of the corporate seats and make up half of the management in a couple of years. It's hard to predict, however, because the JCP attracts so many different groups. It's an interesting trend to watch to see."

The reason individual members have been able to join is due to changes in the group's bylaws. A current proposal being considered next week would allow for more transparency in the specification process (Java and even allow non-members to contribute.

"The more eyes that look at specification before it gets released the better it is for JSRs because it brings them to market faster," Kluyt said. "For many JSRs, the feedback comes during the public phase. What we are doing is providing Java developers with more eyes and more feedback."

Currently it takes a year and a half for average JSR to get approved. Kluyt said the new procedure could streamline the process on average from start to finish in a year. The quickest a JSR could go through is three months and we are hoping it stays the same."

"Sometimes issues are very complex such as any changes to the Java programming language itself because you would be impacting the lives of the 3-million developers and industries that run Java applications as part of their core business. You really have to be careful about this," he said.

As for J2EE v1.4, Sun recently issued the source code, which includes support for the WS-I Basic Profile and the J2EE model for portable Web services applications.

The specification is also anxiously awaited for its intense focus on Web services, which companies are looking at as the next huge splash for employing software to conduct a number of functions, such as global e-commerce and supply chain operations via the Web.

By combining the clout of Java with the thrill of dynamic Web services, Sun hopes to win over more developers than ever in its quest to permeate an applications market where Microsoft looms large with its .NET platform, which is also Web services intensive.

As soon as the JCP approves J2EE, Sun said it will release compatibility tests, source code and a software development toolkit (SDK).