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Open Source Still Bedevils Sun Execs

SAN FRANCISCO -- Think open source is a sore spot for Sun executives?

In the opening keynote here at the JavaOne conference, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz invited Rich Green, whom he'd just hired back to Sun as executive vice president for software, onstage.

After teasing Green about his casual dress, the pony-tailed boss asked him "So, are you gonna open source Java?" The audience laughed.

Green paused and replied "When Scott [McNealy, former Sun CEO] did this to you, did you enjoy it?"

Yes, it's a headache for Sun , which doesn't need any more headaches. While the company is answering the call to open its popular language, it's also clear the company will do it on its own terms and won't be dictated to by the community.

The concern, repeated over and over during the keynote and subsequent press conference with Green and Schwartz, is maintaining compatibility and preventing the forking of the Java platform.

"There's two battling forces here: completely open it up and compatibility concerns," Green told the audience.

"We've been able to keep it together. The challenge going forward is how to solve both. It's not a question of whether we will do it, but a question of how."

Any open source project should be done through the Java Community Process (JCP), and Green emphasized support for the group onstage and off. He encouraged the audience to join the JCP to participate on open development projects, such as Java Platform 5, Enterprise Edition, released today.

Sun continues to release the source code to its major projects.

Today the company announced it will release Sun Java Studio Creator, Sun Java System Portal Server, Sun's Java Message System-based message queue and Web Services Interoperability Technology as open source code under its own license.

Schwartz later said that supporting an open source community doesn't mean less revenue, just fewer barriers to revenue.

"People don't want access to the bits, they want access to the support that comes with it," he said. "This is all about growing the market opportunity for customers who will pay for it. We have to get out of this mindset of 'free software is anti-business.' It's pro business."

Schwartz also reiterated his promise of no layoffs, one he first made when he took the helm of Sun three weeks ago. The issue surfaced when he was asked about righting Sun's financial ship.

"I've never met a company that has cut itself to greatness," he said. "We're all focused on growth as a vehicle to grow the company and not take out a hatchet and find a spare limb here and there to hack off."