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McNealy: Java Communities Colliding

SAN FRANCISCO -- The game of one-upmanship in the Java community continued this week as Sun Microsystems defended its stewardship over its vested interests in Java.

The network computer maker has spent the last year making Java more visible and more usable. But critics are dissatisfied with Sun's controversial views on monetizing the programming language and related software platforms. The company has also come under fire (mostly from its rivals) for its stance on open sourcing its software, as well as its performance as hall monitor for the various Java-related standards groups like the Java Tools Community (JTC) and the Java Community Process.

"An open-source JRE would be a great thing for the community, and avoid problems for Sun later on," Eric S. Raymond, president of the Open Source Initiative, recently told internetnews.com. "If they don't open-source now, someone in the Java Community Process (the most likely candidate being IBM) is going to issue a certified, Java-branded open source implementation and rip control out of Sun's hands, doing them far more damage than if Sun controls the transition and keeps the Java brand intact."

In reply, Sun CEO Scott McNealy and COO Jonathan Schwartz professed Sun's commitment to the Java platform and called on the company's rivals to put up or shut up when it comes to contributing to Java's success.

"There are only two development communities left on the planet... Java and .NET," McNealy said during his keynote at the company's annual JavaOne show here.

McNealy issued an open invitation to Microsoft and Red Hat to join the Java Community Process (JCP), saying that greater things would be made possible for the community with these two companies involved.

"One has a lot to contribute; the other just needs to show up," he said.

Both men accused Red Hat of abusing the open source model, suggesting that the dominant Linux distribution company in North America is only interested in the community when it fits into its business plan. McNealy said Sun and Microsoft are currently working out the details of its newly forged compatibility agreement.

Phase one, due out this summer, will focus on making each company's single sign-on and LDAP directory compatible. Phase two is expected to define better conversations between .NET and Java.

The pair was no less aggressive toward IBM , which has lobbed several open letters to Sun asking the company to open up its source code on various parts of Java.

"IBM has been around for more than 50 years and has more patents than anyone, and Sun remains the biggest contributor to the open source movement. Stop writing open letters and start donating to the source code," McNealy said.

Schwartz paired that with IBM's UNIX/Linux conundrum.

"AIX only runs on the Power processor, which is a very targeted subset of the community," said Schwartz. "Their Linux strategy is none better. Because of Novell owning SUSE, IBM is forcing customers to use Red Hat. And JBoss is making it difficult for IBM to raise prices."

But the rhetoric doesn't hide the fact that Sun is bringing the question of Java stewardship up in conversation after conversation. Sun has had success powering open communities, such as the Liberty Alliance, Open Office, and Project JXTA, but has faced increased resistance in the Java community with the success of the Eclipse Project.

Eclipse, a strong competitor for Microsoft's Visual Studio, has been a thorn in Sun's side as the two execs said IBM's presence shifts focus away from the Sun-sponsored NetBeans Project. Sun released version 4.0 of the IDE with expanded support for Java 2 Platform Micro Edition (J2ME), including Mobile Information Device Profile (MIDP) 2.0 and Connected Limited Device Configuration (CLDC) 1.1, as well as support for the J2ME Wireless Toolkit (WTK) 2.2.

McNealy said that Sun is still the right company to drive the Java community, considering the company has four million Java developers and 550 Java user groups worldwide.

"We've tried to be that benevolent steward," he said.

Earlier in the week, Schwartz defended Sun's shift to subscription-based pricing outlined the company's subscription pricing strategy. It will allow folks to either subscribe to the hardware and get the software for free, or subscribe to the software and get the hardware for free. The company even went as far as selling 12 three-year subscriptions complete with yet-to-be released, Opteron-based workstations. Schwartz said the next 12 months will bring out even more "aggressive" sales tactics, but channel partners should not worry about losing sales.

"Channel partners should assume that we are moving them into our subscription models," Schwartz said. "We are looking at the cable industry and set-top box industry and how they are giving a portion of the subscription to their channel partners. That increases our total base."