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Java's 'Mustang' Out of The Gate

Sun Microsystems got the jump on the next generation of Java with an early release of Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE), version 6.0.

The source code (code-named Mustang) is available in downloadable "snapshots."

It arrives at a time when the ink is barely dry on the current J2SE specification (J2SE 5.0, codenamed Tiger), which was released last June.

As the core of the Java technology platform, J2SE is used for developing applications, including database access (JDBC API), CORBA interface technology, and security for both local network and Internet use. The spec competes heavily with Microsoft's .NET Framework.

Unlike the Tiger release, which took the Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun and the Java Community Process (JCP) nine years and 160 expert members to complete, Mustang took only a fraction of that time to spring to life, officials involved with the project said.

The Tiger team proclaimed the 5.0 release the best; the Mustang group has more than 100 changes in mind already.

Among the more notable adjustments include implementation for x86 and AMD64 processors as well as integration with Swing GUI components (buttons, split panes, tables) and an improved garbage collector.

Sun also said it has simplified the development license. The new "Java Research License" (JRL) replaces the six-year-old "Sun Community Source Licensing" (SCSL).

Sun said it is also pursuing adjustments to the Java distribution license, which will cover all platforms, profiles and standard extensions currently covered under Java SCSL licenses (e.g. J2SE, J2EE and J2ME). Changes include not having to purchase a support contract from Sun and not having to keep research "java compatible."

The change in licensing could signal that Sun is preparing J2SE 6.0 for a long-rumored and controversial submission of Java to the open source community.

"Last June we experimented with a transparent development process by releasing snapshots of the J2SE 5.0 early and it was a great success," Jeff Jackson, vice president Java platform development and Java tools, said in a statement. "Inspired by the enthusiasm we found in the Java development community and their desire to participate earlier in the process, we are taking it a few steps further by releasing source code, under the simplified JRL, and an open community project launched on java.net."

But if you have serious risk issues, Sun warned that the snapshot releases should probably be avoided and recommended waiting for at least a beta release. The company said the snapshot releases have only received light testing.

"You might find enhancements and changes vary from snapshot to snapshot as the development cycle progresses," Sun warned on the J2SE download site. "Features and functions in these snapshots are not necessarily committed to the final product."

The company also said only the JDK binary and source bundles are provided and documentation is very limited.

Michael Dortch, principal business analyst with research firm Robert Frances Group, said Sun's latest moves appear to open Java up even further to developers, while closing some of the gaps that previously existed between release of new features and their incorporation into those developers' efforts.

"Early source code access could therefore shorten time to market for developers and time to success for users of their works, while providing Sun with many, many more skilled eyes and hands to help evolve the source code," Dortch told internetnews.com. "Combined with simplified access for academic and non-profit developers, these developments should be like an extra shot of espresso for the development of new Java solutions, and for Java itself."