RealTime IT News

Sun: Faster, Mobile, Better Java

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sun Microsystems seems ready to allow its pricey Solaris server line to become open sourced, as it looks to mobile applications to fuel demand for its infrastructure products.

At JavaOne, Sun's developer conference held Monday through Thursday in San Francisco, President and COO Jonathan Schwartz said that billions of mobile and embedded devices -- in everything from phones to cars -- would create an accelerating market that will eventually make money for investors, software developers and Sun.

Just as cellular telephone companies give phones away to consumers in order to make money on basic connectivity and, increasingly, on paid content and applications, such as games and ringtones, Schwartz said, "We're investing in Java not so we can make a fortune in handsets, but to get Java handsets to consumers who put demands on the network that, in turn, demand high-scale infrastructure, supplied by Sun customers."

Sun may change its own product and pricing strategy to be more like the carriers. Schwartz said the company is moving toward the "razor and razor blades" model, where the initial investment is kept low so, and recurring revenue comes from refills of blades.

"You have to divorce yourself from the idea that you make money on the thing you deliver on day one," he said. "What matters is the totality of the market opportunity in the future."

Sun will continue to sell software under the traditional model, in addition to selling it on an on-demand and per-seat basis, as well as combining the models.

Roland Busch, CEO of the Infotainment Solutions division of Siemens VDO Automotive AG, demonstrated an entertainment and information service in a BMW that included navigation help and the ability to control the interior climate.

Schwartz noted that cell phones, telematics devices, toys, appliances, handheld devices and set-top boxes all use the same infrastructure. He pegged the total market opportunity for Java applications and infrastructure at $100 billion a year.

"To grow the market, Java has to be faster still -- and easier," he told the developers. "And the technology itself has to become more accessible to the legions of the world's developers who aren't object-oriented coders."

To that end, the company released Sun Java Studio Creator, a visual development tool that generates compatible Java code. The drag-and-drop authoring tool is aimed at corporate developers new to Java, and Schwartz said it was an attempt to woo them away from Microsoft's Visual Studio .NET. Access to Creator requires a $99 per year subscription to the Sun Java Developer Network, a new Web site that includes tools, tutorials and forums.

Schwartz confirmed that Sun plans to open-source its next-generation desktop software, Project Looking Glass, along with its Java 3D application program interface . Looking Glass is Sun's graphical desktop suite, an answer to the Windows and Macintosh desktops, which adds the ability to arrange application windows in three-dimensional space. The platform runs on Solaris and Linux and features window transparency, rotation, zoom and miniaturization.

However, in a question and answer session with journalists and analysts, Schwartz raised doubt about just what kind of a license Sun might choose.

"Just as there is no one hammer for all nails, there are many open source licenses," Schwartz said. "Different licenses have different outcomes in the market. One thing we're committed to is ensuring compatibility."

Sun has been criticized for the Java community license, because it requires developers to pay a hefty fee to have their applications certified. The company has responded that it wants to avoid having applications in the marketplace that don't follow the mantra of working on all machines.

"Leaders are frustrated by standards," Schwartz said, because they make it easier for other companies to compete against them. "Laggards like them," he said, "because it's an occasion to catch up."

In related news, Sun and Agilent Technologies announced they had created the Java Distributed Data Acquisition and Control java.net community, an open-source forum that supports the development of Java applications and libraries for wide-area distributed sensors and controls.

The technology can be used for controlling machinery, building automation, security, utilities management, robotics, mobile communications and distributed sensor and control networks, such as those used by utility companies. Agilent Laboratories is researching distributed wide-area sensor networks using IEEE standards for wireless networking.