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Sun Agrees to Talk to IBM over Open Sourcing Java 451

comforteagle writes "Sun has agreed to meet with IBM to further discuss the issue of open sourcing Java with them. 'Sun is closely evaluating the effectiveness of the process.' Could Sun be coming around to actually doing this?"
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Sun Agrees to Talk to IBM over Open Sourcing Java

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  • by Zo0ok ( 209803 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:39PM (#8409507) Homepage
    For my needs and preferences, Java is "free enough". Anyone who ever has turned Java down in favor of something else, because it is not free?
    • by ---- ( 147583 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:43PM (#8409541)
      I prefer "Unencumbered Enough", "Flexible Enough", "Fast Enough", "Supported Enough" as enough reasons for choosing Java.

      Once chosen, I like how strict the OOP was, and the tools that are available.

      /* ---- */
      • by DelawareBoy ( 757170 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:24PM (#8410001)
        OOP is only as good as the designer. Any of the OOP languages (Java, C# , VB.NET (gasp) to name a few) can still have a clueless idiot make a God class. Conversely, you can "simulate" inheritance, polymorphism, etc. in procedural languages as well. U of Delaware has a Scheme class where this is often done.
    • by gusmao ( 712388 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:44PM (#8409553)
      The question is not whether someone will or will not turn java down because it is not free, but how much more wildly adopted and improved the language and the VM can become.
      • by Delirium Tremens ( 214596 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:50PM (#8409635) Journal
        Actually, the question -- or the worry -- is more around how to prevent somebody from forking Java and kill the "Write Once, Run Everywhere" idiom.
        • by jocknerd ( 29758 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:58PM (#8409742)
          If its not given a BSD-style license, but one closer to GPL, there shouldn't be a problem. Microsoft won't touch the GPL since they can't make it their own like they can with BSD code. So I doubt Microsoft would do anything with Java provided its using an open-source license which prevents it from being hijacked.
          • by AvitarX ( 172628 ) <`gro.derdnuheniwydnarb' `ta' `em'> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:13PM (#8409884) Journal
            Or it could get an original open office (or was it star) type license where non-compatible versions must be open source but if it is 100% compatible it can be closed.
          • by Pieroxy ( 222434 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:33PM (#8410122) Homepage
            Both BSD and GPL offer the possibility to fork and create your own branch! Why would the license be an issue for this problem?
            • by Arker ( 91948 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:04PM (#8410428) Homepage

              Both BSD and GPL offer the possibility to fork and create your own branch! Why would the license be an issue for this problem?

              Because the BSD license allows you to keep your fork secret, that's why. This allows someone like MS to come along and make a fork that puts the original at a disadvantage, and keep their changes secret (and/or patented) and effectively bar all the Free versions from being compatible. However, under the GPL they would have to publish their source, allowing the Free versions to quickly and relatively easily adapt to any such changes.

            • by Christ-on-a-bike ( 447560 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:09PM (#8410473)
              BSD-licensed software can be forked indiscriminately and the source need never surface again.

              Using the GPL guarantees that any non-private forks can later be merged (consider gcc/egcs). Practically speaking there are few incentives to maintain a separate fork.

          • by leomekenkamp ( 566309 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:34PM (#8410140)
            Are you sure? Because if it were GPL, what would be keeping MS from 'adding' classes in java.lang that call win32/.NET only functionality? They have done it before, you know.

            Only the calls to the underlying OS would have to be in GPL-ed code, the actual win32/.NET would not. There is nothing in the GPL to prevent GPL code calling proprietary closed code. So, MS takes GPL java, add a few classes with close integration to windows, add that whole package (including all java source) to windows and bingo: a polluted MS only java variant!
          • by JPriest ( 547211 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:02PM (#8410414) Homepage
            Maybe if they chose GPL we could have as many JVM's as we do Linux distros.
          • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:23PM (#8410648) Journal
            Actually, an Apache style license would be better. With the GPL, Microsoft could copy the core VM, remove a few classes, and add com.ms.* packages in large numbers that did not reference any GPL'd code directly, which would result in an incompatible implementation (they probably wouldn't, since they're ignoring Java completely in favour of .NET at the moment). Worse, another open source group could fork the project and change the behaviour of some of the core classes, making an incompatible implementation (which would still be bound by the GPL). If this implementation gained even a 5% market share it would be a problem.

            With an Apache-style license, companies like Apple could incorporate the Java implementation into their OS, but would not be able to call it Java if they made any changes to the source. Sun (and possibly IBM) could then charge for performing compliance testing on a particular implementation, and allow use of the Java trademark to any implementation which passed the tests.

        • by bogado ( 25959 ) <bogado@nOspaM.bogado.net> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:58PM (#8409745) Homepage Journal
          The answer is easy create a test suite that a piece of software can only be called java compatible if it pass this test suite.
          • by javaxman ( 705658 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:56PM (#8410354) Journal
            They have that.

            It's called the "Java Compatability Kit", and is what JVM implementations are tested against in licensing to get that spiffy Java logo. IMHO, they should be more strict about how well an implementation performs against the JCK, and include more graphical tests ( though of course those are the hard ones to write ).

            The key is you only see the JCK after you've agreed to license Java and paid some cash. That's the only *direct* way Sun makes money on Java. If you're asking them to give that up, I Sun's shareholders will have to ask you why, and what they're going to get in return... this will likely be what the IBM conversation consists of- how to give the JCK to one open-source implementation and still keep commercial ventures going to Sun for compatability certification.

        • by BaronAaron ( 658646 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:07PM (#8409825)
          Any fork from the Java specifications would simply not be Java anymore.

          I would imagine Sun would act as a gatekeeper if Java went open source. Anything code that breaks compatibility would not be included in the "offical" Java feed.

          As the grandfather post stated, this is more about portability than anything.
        • by Angst Badger ( 8636 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:24PM (#8410000)
          Actually, the question -- or the worry -- is more around how to prevent somebody from forking Java and kill the "Write Once, Run Everywhere" idiom.

          This hasn't been a problem with C, so why should it be so with Java? Sure, everyone and his brother has implemented non-standard extensions to C in their compilers --- but almost no one uses them. If you care about portability, you'll stick to the standard, and if you don't care about portability, odds are you don't care very much about Java.

          If you're really into "write once, run everywhere," then an open source Java ought to be a major goal. Java doesn't run on my box, for example, because it doesn't come with my distro, and my past experiences with configuring it have been so unpleasant that I don't bother anymore. If I really could just run Java programs -- exactly as I can currently compile C programs without worrying about installing the compiler toolchain manually -- I'd probably use some Java programs.

          (And yes, I know non-trivial C programs require modification to run on new platforms, but that's because C programs interface directly with the operating system without the buffer of a VM -- and the VM certainly isn't "write once, run anywere," now is it?)
          • by mcc ( 14761 ) <amcclure@purdue.edu> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:39PM (#8410184) Homepage
            Actually, the question -- or the worry -- is more around how to prevent somebody from forking Java and kill the "Write Once, Run Everywhere" idiom.

            This hasn't been a problem with C, so why should it be so with Java? ... If you care about portability, you'll stick to the standard

            My God, man, have you ever tried to move STL code between compilers???
          • by scheme ( 19778 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:39PM (#8410187)
            This hasn't been a problem with C, so why should it be so with Java? Sure, everyone and his brother has implemented non-standard extensions to C in their compilers --- but almost no one uses them. If you care about portability, you'll stick to the standard, and if you don't care about portability, odds are you don't care very much about Java.

            That will be news to a lot of people. A lot of software uses ms, borland, or gcc specific hacks and alterations. For example, the linux kernel won't compile without gcc or icc (now that intel implemented gcc compatibility changes to compile the kernel). How about microsoft's vc++ not implementing the scoping in for loops right? vc++ doesn't follow the standard so standard code breaks. There are a bunch of other things like this around.

          • by dmeranda ( 120061 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:58PM (#8411072) Homepage

            Python [python.org] is copylefted and is somewhat more comparable to Java than C. It has is own VM and is bytecompiled. It consists of not only a language, but also a rather rich library layer. And it is mostly "write once, run everywhere"; unless you specifically create/use extensions which are platform-bound. But the vast majority of Python programs are extremely portable.

            Any Python has not suffered from any forking issues! Nor has Microsoft corrupted it via it's usual extend/embrace strategy. But Python is really *free*, unlike Java.

        • by BenBenBen ( 249969 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:18PM (#8410568)
          Actually, the question -- or the worry -- is more around how to prevent somebody from forking Java and kill the "Write Once, Run Everywhere" idiom.
          Hmm, wonder who the "somebody" could be [microsoft.com]
        • by Tony-A ( 29931 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:02PM (#8411121)
          Actually, the question -- or the worry -- is more around how to prevent somebody from forking Java and kill the "Write Once, Run Everywhere" idiom.

          And methinks this is where IBM is even more on SUN's side than SUN itself.
          Think what needs to be the replacement for mountains of COBOL on mainframes.

          I'm no expert on Java, but every time I look at it I get visions of gaggles of mainframes. (No I don't mean clusters. Clusters are a cheap hack to pretend to a non-existant level of reliability).
    • NOT free enough (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:49PM (#8409627)
      It is NOT free enough because it cannot come by default with linux distros. License states that third parties cannot distribute java development kit. It will be free enough for me when I can do:

      apt-get install j2sdk-1.4.2

      Now it is not. Of course having source available and having the right to mofify and distribute your own version (f.e. optimized for athlon or modified to conform to debian-standards) of java would be a HUGE bonus, but it is not THAT necessary.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:01PM (#8409786)

        You managed to incorporate Debian, Free software and apt get into one troll that the /. Crowd loved. I'm going to save this to post any time anything concerning Java comes up. Know what else should be free, Hookers. I won't be happy until I can get free hookers at the local Salvation Army.
      • Re:NOT free enough (Score:5, Informative)

        by BigGerman ( 541312 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:19PM (#8409945)
        >>License states that third parties cannot distribute java development kit

        where does it say that?

        from jdk 1.4 on my machine:

        B. License to Distribute Software. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, including, but not limited to the Java Technology Restrictions of these Supplemental Terms, Sun grants you a non-exclusive, non-transferable, limited license without fees to reproduce and distribute the Software, provided that (i) you distribute the Software complete and unmodified (unless otherwise specified in the applicable README file) and only bundled as part of, and for the sole purpose of running, your Programs, (ii) the Programs add significant and primary functionality to the Software, (iii) you do not distribute additional software intended to replace any component(s) of the Software (unless otherwise specified in the applicable README file), (iv) you do not remove or alter any proprietary legends or notices contained in the Software, (v) you only distribute the Software subject to a license agreement that protects Sun's interests consistent with the terms contained in this Agreement, and (vi) you agree to defend and indemnify Sun and its licensors from and against any damages, costs, liabilities, settlement amounts and/or expenses (including attorneys' fees) incurred in connection with any claim, lawsuit or action by any third party that arises or results from the use or distribution of any and all Programs and/or Software.

        • Re:NOT free enough (Score:5, Informative)

          by pyros ( 61399 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:25PM (#8410680) Journal
          Sections i and ii of the license clause you quote state that you can't distribute the jre/jsdk without an aditional product. So companies who care about such legal issues, like Red Hat, have to write some java app and distribute that, and have the jre/jsdk be included in that package. They would have to make it a part of every package which depended on it. I suppose they could keep two versions of each package which needs it, and the first package would get the fat version. In turn subsequent packages would see that it is installed and get the thin version instead.

          But they can't distribute the jre/jsdk by itself.
        • Re:NOT free enough (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gnu-generation-one ( 717590 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:54PM (#8411604) Homepage
          >>License states that third parties cannot distribute java development kit / where does it say that? [Included section B of jdk 1.4 license]

          Howabout the "non-transferable" bit? If I give my mandrake CDs to someone, have I infringed the java license?

          Howabout "for the sole purpose of running your programs" -- (a) they're not my programs, they were written by various GNU authors, and (b) java would be included just because it's useful, and not to make any other particular program run

          Howabout "you only distribute the Software subject to a license agreement that protects Sun's interests" -- how am I supposed to know what Sun is interested in, and am I supposed to modify the distribution CDs based on that guess?

          Howabout "you agree to defend and indemnify Sun and its licensors from and against any damages, costs..." -- I'm supposed to provide insurance for sun, at my own cost, against any damage caused by the people that I'm giving distro CDs to for free?

          And as for "that arises or results from the use or distribution of any and all Programs and/or Software." -- err, which programs?

      • Re:NOT free enough (Score:5, Informative)

        by Joseph Lam ( 61951 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:19PM (#8409948)
        Slackware 9.1 comes pre-installed with Sun's JDK 1.4....is it in violation or what?
    • by qortra ( 591818 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:53PM (#8409691)
      I use Debian, and generally speaking, if it isn't free enough for Debian, it isn't free enough for me. Beyond my hatred for the lack of JRE in the main unstable tree (which is really annoying), there is also an ethical ideal of truly free software that is being violated by Java.

      Many people believe RMS is too hardcore about sticking to his guns on this issue, but I do believe he has a good point. Many programs are "free" for temporary use, and Java is one of them. Other examples of superficially free software are Windows Media Player and Adobe Acrobat, for which there are no guarantees of future freedom. These programs, like Java, introduce standards and structure that other people build on. If the freedom of these platforms was to be compromised, many poeple could stand to lose a great deal of work. The only way to guarantee the possibility of future support is to open source it.
      • by v01d ( 122215 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:20PM (#8409954) Homepage
        The only way to guarantee the possibility of future support is to open source it.

        That's not true. The API's are fully documented and there is nothing preventing their implementation. Those API's are decided on by the JCP which is a community process.

        Open sourcing Java would give people an implementation, it would not significantly affect the characteristics of the language. I don't see the openness of Java being significantly different than that of C/C++/C#/Ada; the languages are tightly controlled by a small group with anyone free to implement the standard to whatever extent.

        What is the difference between the relationship of Java to the JCP and C to ANSI? You and I can't directly influence either; but we are free to implement either language.
    • by Electrum ( 94638 ) <david@acz.org> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:20PM (#8409953) Homepage
      For my needs and preferences, Java is "free enough". Anyone who ever has turned Java down in favor of something else, because it is not free?

      I have. It's not free enough to be included with Debian or FreeBSD.
    • by Shirov ( 137794 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:34PM (#8410128) Homepage
      Actually, this is VERY IMPORTANT! I think the big advantage(s) of "open sourcing" java will be seen when things such as the mess with the logging API's and the use of the assert keyword are avoided.

      It is still a mystery to me why Sun developed their own logging API's when LOG4J [apache.org] was widely used and accepted.

      Hopefully a more open approach to Java would help projects that are housed at Jakarta [apache.org] and SourceForge [sourceforge.net] actually make it into the JDK instead of sticking us with inferior rewrites.

      The logging API is just one example. Imagine if the JUNIT [junit.org] implementation of assert was used, and if SWT [eclipse.org] could be combined with Swing/AWT to create better/superior user interfaces. I think Java could grow in leaps and bounds with an open approach.

      Another good example of this would be the JDOM [jdom.org] project. How long has it sat in the JCP? While in the meantime Sun implemented their own INFERIOR XML libraries.

      The JCP is too political, and needs to modified/done away with. Let the people decide the direction of JAVA!

      Just my .02

  • Um. An? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:40PM (#8409508) Homepage Journal
    Sun officials planned to meet with IBM as early as Thursday to discuss the merits of whether the company should work with IBM on an independent project to create an open-source implementation of Java.

    Wait... an .. implementation?

    Rick Ross, president of Javalobby Inc., of Cary, N.C., an association of Java developers with more than 100,000 members, said, "On the surface, Rod's reply indicates a clear willingness on IBM's behalf to invest in an independent, open-source Java implementation that would benefit everyone"

    What? Two Javas? This sounds weird. Obviously an open source implementation will grow and respond to demand rapidly and outpace something proprietary, yet it sounds like there will still be a proprietary version. Can anyone shed light on this? I'm confused.

    • Re:Um. An? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by cynicalmoose ( 720691 ) <giles.robertson@westminster.org.uk> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:42PM (#8409537) Homepage
      In other words, there will be an open source java implementation, but you can bet your bottom dollar there will be better tools and IDEs for the closed version initially.

      Then there will be enough libre programmers to make decent libre IDEs etc, and the proprietary Java will wither away (and Sun with it).

      Though I hope Sun doesn't die, because they can stand up against Microsoft.
    • Re:Um. An? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lpp ( 115405 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:45PM (#8409572) Homepage Journal
      An OSS version that comes with no support and little in the way of guarantees. A commercially licensed version that does.

      Companies will make the same choice they make with other dual licensed OSS projects.
    • Re:Um. An? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Short Circuit ( 52384 ) <mikemol@gmail.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:47PM (#8409603) Homepage Journal
      Neither company wants to release their own IP into an open source project. However, IBM providing the manpower, with Sun providing the specs, is a good combination for a new product.

      It benefits Sun because A) it keeps Free Software advocates off their backs, and B) it promotes the continuance of Java, a flagship product, and one of the ways they as a company become known to many others.

      It benefits IBM because it A) improves their image with the free software community, B) helps keep them in a leadership position for corporate attitude towards open source, C) it keeps investor opinion high.
    • by kbonin ( 58917 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:56PM (#8409729) Homepage
      This reminds me of an interesting experience I had once 3+ years ago. I worked for Cisco on a line of security products being implemented in Java. We (I) spent a lot of time talking w/ engineers at Sun about problems and limitations of various API's that we would have LOVED to get improved or expanded, there were far too many things we just couldn't do without rewriting many packages from scratch so they could be extended.

      The response from Sun engineers I talked to always amounted to some version of - 'those APIs are the result of too many meetings between vested parties, for political reasons it would be nearly impossible to extend them in the way you want'.

      At the same time, I spent some time talking with my counterparts at IBM (at conferences.) Over and over again I discovered (through completely non NDA conversations at these conferences) that they already had rewrites of just about all of (if not in fact 100%) the libraries. They had already rewritten everything from scratch so they could make the needed extensions themselves, they just didn't have permission to give them to anyone else. (So I had to do the same, at least for all the java.security and JCE stuff I needed...)

      So its entirely feasible that IBM has had for years a parallel implementation of all the libraries, and releasing them as open source would be relatively trivial. The only issue holding them up is the Java license terms regarding package naming, i.e. I believe they would need explicit permission to release packages named 'java[x].*'
      • by javaxman ( 705658 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:14PM (#8410525) Journal
        I don't know about "parallel implementation", unless you mean this : AIX JDK [ibm.com]
        or this : Linux JDK [ibm.com]
        or this : OS/390 JDK [ibm.com]
        or... heck, they even have a separate IBM Windows JDK... probably others...
        Let's just say IBM has licensed Java for years and leave it at that, OK ? You can download so many versions of the JDK and JRE from IBM it makes your head spin. Nobody has done as many JVM implementations and research as IBM, probably not even Sun. In doing so, they have likely re-written the JDK several times.
    • Two Java's (Score:5, Insightful)

      by just fiddling around ( 636818 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:03PM (#8409798) Journal
      In fact, we are talking about JVM's, not the language itself.

      The Java language specification [amazon.com] is already avaliable in the open, just like the JVM spec [amazon.com]. This means that anybody could write a complete java implementation, open source. The open source version could not evolve faster than the Sun spec(because it would not be a real JVM then), but the optimization and bug-tracking processes could go faster (if it gets the same kind of support Apache has).

      What is interesting here is that Sun would participate directly.

  • by robslimo ( 587196 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:40PM (#8409517) Homepage Journal
    As Sun has already stated (in response to criticisms) that they have no problem with someone working up an Open Source version, as long as the spec is adhered to. Now someone with serious manpower is offering to do exactly that.

    I'm not surprised at all. Quite pleased, actually.

    • by aled ( 228417 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:47PM (#8409605)
      The problem is that open sourced java means something different to everyone, thus most people rants about different things. Many are shouting the "open source good" mantra, without stoping to think what to open source or how (a language, an implementation, a licence, a platform?).
      • by Christ-on-a-bike ( 447560 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:26PM (#8410685)
        I don't understand anyone's puzzlement here.
        1. The Java language is an open specification -- you are free to implement it.
        2. Sun/IBM are thinking about releasing an open-source implementation.
        3. An open-source implementation by definition has an open-source license.
        4. Any Java implementation is a platform because it provides a runtime environment, libraries etc.
        5. An implementation of Java may not use the 'Java' mark unless it is compatible with the spec.
        What is confusing or perplexing here? I think it's obvious what most people want -- an open-source (hopefully GPL!) Java implementation. Obviously we also want it to conform to spec.
  • Sun reply (Score:5, Informative)

    by Espectr0 ( 577637 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:41PM (#8409520) Journal
    I wonder what IBM has to say on Sun's reply, which is covered by techworld [slashdot.org]

    Apparently they don't understand IBM's position on Linux
  • Microsoft's Stand? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GTsquirrel42 ( 624871 ) <heirpixel AT gmail DOT com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:41PM (#8409524) Homepage
    So, what does M$ have to say about this? Will they be in favor of open-sourcing Java, or will Steve pull the "open-source-is-dangerous" rabbit back out?
  • Just wondering (Score:5, Interesting)

    by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:41PM (#8409525)
    Don't hate me, but has anyone ever thought that this might not be a *good* thing? As irrational as it sounds there are probably a number of companies out there who are using Java just because the PHB's have decided that since it's "owned" by a major company like Sun, it must be good/stable/etc... These same cover your arse PHB's may not like the fact that the language they depend on has no "official support"... I'm thinking of the type of boss who would deploy RH or SuSE but not Debian...
    • Re:Just wondering (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bhsx ( 458600 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:48PM (#8409619)
      It's being spearheaded by IBM and Sun. I don't think anyone will have issues about poor corporate backing.
      Not an issue, not even for the most retarded PHBs.
    • Re:Just wondering (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bc90021 ( 43730 ) * <bc90021@@@bc90021...net> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:49PM (#8409630) Homepage
      That is likely why they would dual-license it, ala MySQL. The PHBs and the CXOs get a version that comes with Enterprise support that they pay for, and the Geeks get an open source free version that they can use that has no support.

      It's being done quite successfully with MySQL, so Sun would be remiss if they didn't at least explore their options. IBM has proven that they will support open source (as it furthers their ends as well), and doing this for Java would help with their server offerings as well.

      Really, I can't see how everyone won't win.
  • If done right... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by brasten ( 699342 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:42PM (#8409540)
    Wow... despite my skepticism in previous posts, I do think this CAN be done and done right. I think it would be VERY smart to get IBM and Sun to work *extremely* closely on this. In much the same way IBM is defending Linux currently, Java would still need that corporate support to defend it against outside challenges.

    But, it could work...
  • by seldolivaw ( 179178 ) <me.seldo@com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:43PM (#8409546) Homepage
    It's well-known within IBM (I worked a summer there) that IBM's implementation of Java on Linux and Windows is a lot faster than Sun's own. IBM for a long time has wished it had a way to make its implementation the standard for this reason. Sun must also be aware how slow their implementation is, and this gives them an honourable way of getting their hands on IBM's code without handing over control to IBM. It's a win-win, so hopefully this will happen.
  • by cnelzie ( 451984 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:44PM (#8409550) Homepage
    ...Sun is attempting to buy some time and save face by stating that they will look into it with IBM, rather then ignore IBM and the OSS community by continuing their existing party-line.

    What they may attempt is to persuade IBM to understand their side and perhaps even join them in keeping Java a closed environment.

    It will be interesting to see how this will all turn out in the end.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:44PM (#8409554)
    While I hope that Sun does this someday, I really think that Eric and some others are out of line for beating up on Sun.

    Sun is in trouble... nothing is really working for them. The Opteron is going to kill the Sparc, and they don't make much money off software. They need to figure out ways to make money from what they're doing or they're going to go under and take a lot of really cool stuff with them when they do.

    I am personally an old fan of Sun. I think they're a great company. Their lukewarm support for SCO (I personally think they were just straddling the fence so they'd be on the winning side no matter what) is disturbing, but I understand their desire to stay out of the way of a litigous monstrosity like this. I want Sun to survive.

    Sun has done a great job with Java so far. If they had opened it in the beginning, it would have been embraced, extended, and extinguished by you-know-who and we'd now have Microsoft Java.NET for Windows. Cross-platform Java would be dead. Sun did the right thing, and have been great stewards over this wonderful technology.

    So, as we call for them to OSS Java, please keep their interests in mind. They deserve some reward for developing such a wonderful thing. We should not just blindly beat up on them for no reason, and we should keep in mind that IBM may have entirely selfish reasons for "leaning" on Sun here.

    (IBM has done the community some great favors, but that doesn't entitle them to some kind of blind religious allegence.)
    • why? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kpharmer ( 452893 ) * on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:33PM (#8410120)
      Sure Sun's in trouble - they optimized their business for the dot-coms, took advantage of the hype, and now everyone's far more interested in cheap than sexy.

      But even their sexy servers aren't all that attractive anymore as the intel line gains more ground on them. And really, the the only reason for buying 24+ way SMPs was due to limitations in oracle clustering. And now they're moving away from that.

      Java's fine - if you like heavy, ponderous languages. A few years ago I worked at a system integrator and performed a study of our productivity - it actually took us longer to create an application in J2EE/Oracle in 2002 than it did in CICS/DB2 in 1987. The only good thing I can say about java is that I suppose it's better for large application development than c or c++, and it runs on more platforms than .net. And I suppose it's just about the only language being taken seriously for large application development on open systems today.

      So, now what's Sun left with? Overpriced hardware and cumbersome software. Should we be deferential with them because of all that they've done for us? Please - they spin so much hype it's disgusting, and their sales team is almost as sleazy as that of sybase or oracle.
  • Mad Hatter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by almaon ( 252555 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:45PM (#8409576)
    I wonder if this will have any impact on the development and direction of Mad Hatter, with IBM's ongoing journey to bring linux to a wider audience. These two companies in bed, in marriage, could produce some interesting offspring for Java and ultimately could very well trickle down to Mad Hatter.

    Could this venture open up doors for Mad Hatter to become a part of IBM's fleet of products? Any thoughts?
    • Re:Mad Hatter (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jared_hanson ( 514797 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:40PM (#8410200) Homepage Journal
      A IBM/Sun combination could make for some interesting happenings. I think most people would agree that Sun has made some costly mistakes, and it is bringing them down. Conversely, IBM has made the opposite decisions, which is starting to really pay off for them.

      IBM is quite interesting to watch. They've largely thrown their weight behind Linux. The also holding the high cards at the Java table. They are trying to leverage their chip advantage to get Sun to meet their demands. Iterestingly, they also are a big investor in the whole Novell/SuSE/Ximian deal, the people leading the .NET and Mono charge. They've also got numerous other OSs, chips, and other products within the company.

      My take on the situation: Linux is at the point where it needs to rally behind a driving force. I'm all for choice and all, but you don't beat Microsoft by constant infighting and fractured ideas. As the old saying goes, united we stand but divided we fall.

      I think IBM should outright buy Sun. Sun is failing and would be a cheap aquisition. Waiting any longer will just give Microsoft a bigger advantage as the .NET platform gains steam. The primary reason for the aquisition would be for Java, but a lot of other interesting products would come along. I've always thought IBM's product line needed some consolidation. For instance, Sun would bring in Solaris and IBM should move to a dual OSs strategy: Linux and a proprietary, high-end UNIX that combines Solaris/AIX/etc. There is room for both those products. A lot of work would have to be done on integrating and perhaps open sourcing various middleware and application servers.

      On the development side, I believe it would be tremendous if IBM (with Sun and Ximian under their wings) would step up and iron out both Java and Mono, along with providing a tight IDE with Eclipse. This could make Linux the development platform of choice.

      Of course, development isn't worth much if you don't have an installed base to deploy to. With Novell/SuSE/Ximian, IBM could generate a nice, consistent, integrated desktop environment and provide the corporate sway in convincing businesses to switch from Microsoft.

      In short, I think IBM has the most incentive to see Microsoft fall from dominance. They've shown their willingness to get behind an open platform. The community should show their support and get behind IBM. It will yeild the greatest long term benefit.
      • Re:Mad Hatter (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Christ-on-a-bike ( 447560 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:39PM (#8410849)
        I think IBM should outright buy Sun

        I think anti-trust might be an issue here. These companies are already pretty huge. Even if an acquisition was announced, the sheer amount of work needed to unify all the product lines is enormous. That would scare investors and IBM's share price would crash.

  • Crossing my fingers! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by provoix ( 730200 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:46PM (#8409585)

    From the article - "Sun officials planned to meet with IBM as early as Thursday to discuss the merits of whether the company should work with IBM on an independent project to create an open-source implementation of Java."

    Well...perhaps they've seen the benefit of the OpenOffice project.

  • by InsaneGeek ( 175763 ) <slashdot@NOspaM.insanegeeks.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:49PM (#8409625) Homepage
    I gotta think that Java operates at a loss for them, they've basically been using Java as loss-leader to buy their other sutff lately. With all their corporate wide financial difficulties spinning Java off, letting other people do their development for them makes a lot of $ sense. They've gotten enough brand naming out of Java, so it will always be linked with Sun, so they aren't losing much branding. Why spend lots of money & resources on a free product when you are strapped to the gills with financial problems.
    • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:08PM (#8409838) Homepage
      I gotta think that Java operates at a loss for them

      Really? Have you looked at a mobile phone recently? Every new phone comes with Java. That suggests almost every new phone means a royalty payment to Sun. Mobile phone sales are back on the up thanks to mobile multimedia content - mostly delivered through Java. I suspect Sun are raking it in.

      • by InsaneGeek ( 175763 ) <slashdot@NOspaM.insanegeeks.com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:30PM (#8410090) Homepage
        But how much are they getting for royalty per phone; It can't be very much. $.50-$1/phone would probably be pushing the cost limits (especially lately with M$ & Linux putting out competing embeded OS). Put out a few cell phones and it can come up to a bit of money; but still development costs for Java and sustaining it is more then they are making back from it. If it was the other way around, Sun would be intentionally separating java income from their other income and shoving it in everybody's face.

        I might be wrong, but I just don't see them making any gross profit directly from selling Java royalties.
  • by stripmarkup ( 629598 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:51PM (#8409659) Homepage
    There is already an open source java compiler [slashdot.org]. It works pretty well but its missing the UI functionality. It compiles to bytecode or native code on Windows or Linux. It does not support awt or Swing yet. This should be the obvious starting point for IBM.
    • by tdrury ( 49462 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:08PM (#8409843) Homepage
      This should be the obvious starting point for IBM

      Wouldn't it be smarter if IBM started with their own SDK/JVM [ibm.com]? If IBM wants open-source Java so bad, let them open their SDK and JVM.

      • by javatips ( 66293 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:30PM (#8410088) Homepage
        They probably can't do it. They licensed the Sun JDK and they modified t and created a new VM implementation. They probably be able to open-source the VM implementation (it's very likely that there is no Sun code left in it) but they will not be able to open-source their implementaion of the class library because most of it is still Sun code.

        It will get faster to an complete Open Source JDK if they can get Sun to agree to release the class libraries under an open source license.

        Note that it would make sense for Sun to do it because they will have to spend less money on fixing an enhancing Java.
  • Open Source (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jefu ( 53450 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:54PM (#8409701) Homepage Journal
    I'd have thought that Sun might have learned something about opening source by now. NeWS, the rather radical window system that sun built in the late 80's probably failed mostly because it was kept proprietary (at least many who used it thought so). When X was openly and freely available, it was tough for even the excellent technical solution NeWS was to compete.

    Does anyone know if there are implementations of NeWS available as open source now? Has anyone working on one of the "X Is Icky - I have a Better Way" window systems looked at NeWS for a model? Enquiring minds (however enfeebled) want to know.

  • Awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 27, 2004 @01:58PM (#8409741)
    This could lead to some extremely good things.

    Unfortunately, the only downside is that ESR is going to try to take credit for it, and he will be insufferable after this.
  • by ArchAngelQ ( 35053 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:01PM (#8409785) Homepage Journal
    Sun has publicly said they will talk to IBM about this. This doesn't amount to agreeing to do that which is proposed, ala an open source java.

    What they HAVE basicly said is "We have officially turned to look at the road that may lead to an open source java". This isn't the first step on the road to Sun being involved in an open source java. But it's the precursor to that step, so I think anyone interested in java will take note.

    Just my 2c
  • by nereid666 ( 533498 ) <spam@damia.net> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:07PM (#8409833) Homepage
    It si very interesting to listen how one company talks with another in order to achieve the liberation of a technology and asking to release it as opensource. I think it is a revolution, years ago one company made a deal with another under propiertary licenses.
    Do they arrive to a private deal? Or they arrive to a deal with the benefit of everyone, in opensource-way?
  • Petition (Score:5, Informative)

    by nepheles ( 642829 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:08PM (#8409844) Homepage
    A petition [petitiononline.com] has just been launched.
  • Yay! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Gorath99 ( 746654 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:09PM (#8409847)
    I really hope this works out. Not because "free as in beer" isn't good enough for me (it is), but because it'll help focus the Java community.

    We want Java's greatest supporters on one line, so they can face the growing competition of C# instead of bickering among themselves about whose VM/Gui toolkit/IDE/Compiler is the best.

    Getting an OSS Java is just a nice bonus.
  • by jg21 ( 677801 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:33PM (#8410115)
    The eWeek piece doesn't say any such thing, "closely evaluating" is a time honored phrase meaning business-as-usual, "agrees to talk" is something quite different. Sun simply hasn't done this.
  • by agslashdot ( 574098 ) <sundararaman@krishnan.gmail@com> on Friday February 27, 2004 @02:49PM (#8410284)
    Say your boss wants to make a deal with you. He says get to work at 7am, you say 9am. He says "Lets talk about it".
    Now, you can't really say "No", can you ?
    Think about it.
    If you did, you'll sound unreasonable & stubborn. People may suspect you have something fishy going on, that absolutely prevents you from even talking about it.
    So you are forced to say "Ok, lets talk".

    Standard management tactic.

    IBM has a $96 share price with 166 billion market cap. When they say "Lets talk about it", someone worth only 5 bucks a share and two quarters of operating losses is forced to say "ok".
  • by MeauxToo ( 644228 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:29PM (#8410726)

    IBM is urging Sun to create an open-source implementation of Java, not necessarily open source its current implementation. Sun's current Java implementation is loaded with tweaks and advanced features (generational garbage collection, HotSpot, etc) that would not be available in such a scenario. The open-source community developing this new implementation would have to develop these features on their own or hope that Sun will donate some or all of their work out the goodness of their heart.

    As such, this move by IBM doesn't seem to have any short-term beneift. Furthermore, IBM isn't pushing this new open-source implementation to be the implementation of choice. Instead, they are saying that like the J2EE specs, there should be a free and open-source implementation of the J2SE specs. Whoopie.

  • by solprovider ( 628033 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:34PM (#8410787) Homepage
    What part of Java is being open sourced?

    The specifications are controlled by the JCL. Sun has a never-used veto power that allows them to keep control of the trademark. Can this be more "open"? Java is a programming language being designed by a committee. Do you really want everyone in the world to be on the committee?

    Are they talking about the StandardEdition, or every version of Java? If SUN will lose the revenues from the cell phone makers, this is not feasible.

    Are they talking about releasing the JVM under the GPL? Why does IBM need SUN to help with this? IBM has their own JVM that was faster than SUN's JVM (from my own experiences using JVM 1.3.) Is there a reason that IBM cannot GPL their version? IBM has been trying to wrest control of Java from SUN for years. Could IBM GPL their JVM and force the issue for SUN?

    Is the issue that SUN should be the one to dual-license the code so that GPL'd code changes can be added to the commercial branch? I am not clear about the legality of that.

    The only real issue seems that OSS needs a freely redistributable JVM to include with Linux distros and other software. OSS is good so debugging can see further down, although that can be difficult when the layers change language. A GPL'd JVM might be forked over features as well as implementation, but implementations have already forked, and Sun can control the features by not allowing their trademark to be used for non-compliant VMs. Please reply with clarifications.
  • by xot ( 663131 ) <fragiledeath@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:38PM (#8410837) Journal
    As a company the Big Blue does pretty well for itself, has numerous patents but what is its position in the general tech scene? Do most people see IBM as evil or good?
    Of course they definitely aint in the MS (bad) league by my standards, they've done more good than bad for the technology as far as i know.Ok so they wanna make a few bucks on the way, thats not all that bad is it? I'd say angel(maybe i just like the color blue.)
  • Money (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TooTechy ( 191509 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:47PM (#8410940)
    From a financial standpoint, and let's face it, that is from where IBM is talking, IBM stand to gain everything from an open source Java.

    Fair's fair IBM. If Sun offers Java then perhaps you should volunteer WebSphere!

  • by Xardion ( 215668 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @03:51PM (#8410984)
    because the development process for it has been WAY too cumbersome for me in the past, and I've been seriously looking at C#/.Net as an alternative. And being a pretty vehement Microsoft hater, that's pretty damn serious.
  • Let Java Go! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pants1973 ( 688690 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:02PM (#8411114) Homepage
    I think this is a kick-ass idea and want to thank Eric S. Raymond for lighting the kindling under the asses of Sun to help get this moving. If Java is not open-sourced - soon - it will die. Not die in the sense that it will go away, but it will a very slow, and very painful death. One of lesser technology, slower tools, lesser open source support and especially with the Mono project, a laughable contender in the web-services area. I seriously think that if Java were open-sourced by mid 2004 in a GPL-style license, then C# and .Net would be given a serious run for its money. Everyone chant with me ... Set Java Free ..... Set Java Free....
  • by taj ( 32429 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:36PM (#8411439) Homepage

    If Sun and IBM work on an Open Source Java, I'll work at merging the project I maintain with their efforts.


    Sun's license issues have been problematic for our project. I look forward to an Open Source Java.
  • Too Free? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheezit ( 133765 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @04:49PM (#8411562) Homepage
    Believe it or not, there are corporate IT shops that shy away from anything open-source---even if you can show a support contract. In a place like that, any movement of Java to open-source is a negative, not a positive. And since those shops are exactly where Java is popular, Sun is not stupid to go slow.

    These corporate IT shops think they have leverage over the big-$$ vendors by virtue of the fat checks that they can hold back (sometimes true, sometimes not). No check, no leverage, no support.

    The reality is that much of IT is about budgets, not technology. Senior managers still work with money long after whatever technical skills they had are gone, so that's the club they use on vendors.
  • IBM virtual machines (Score:5, Informative)

    by roca ( 43122 ) on Friday February 27, 2004 @07:10PM (#8412752) Homepage
    I work at IBM. I've been authorized to say the following to clear up a few misconceptions:

    IBM has 3 systems that can execute Java programs:
    - The oldest JVM is the base for the current generation of products and is derived from Sun code, but contains significant changes to the JIT and garbage collector. See
    - A newer product JVM (internally called J9) was developed from an IBM code base. See http://www.ibm.com/software/wireless/wme/features. html
    - A third (Jikes RVM) has been developed principally for research use and is written in Java. It is an existing open source project that uses GNU Classpath libraries and is popular with JVM researchers. It is not complete, mostly because Classpath is not complete. It is capable, with only the Classpath libraries, of running substantial programs such as Eclipse. See http://www.ibm.com/developerworks/oss/jikesrvm/
  • This is nothing more than a move by IBM against Microsoft. It's all about positioning, as far as I can tell. IBM realizes that .NET is going to be huge in the future. The main competition to .NET is Java and if Java can be improved it might actually compete well against MS's .NET.

    The question is whether Sun will buy into this. There are some advantages to Sun but there are also some disadvantages. One immediate advantage to Sun is that IBM push into the enterprise environment can help Java tremendously.

    I'm going to get flamed for saying this but, if the status quo is retained, I think .NET will vaporize Java out of existence. I neither work with Java nor .NET (this isn't even my area) but I don't see many reasons why a neutral like me would pick Java over .NET these days.

    Sivaram Velauthapillai

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas