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 “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

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
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.”

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