Developer

Irony of it all

Sun has finally announced the full details of their open sourcing of Java -- a move intended to reinvigorate a language badly needing fresh momentum. But let us to cut through the hype and see what we can find.

Sun has finally announced the full details of their open sourcing of Java — a move intended to reinvigorate a language badly needing fresh momentum. But let us to cut through the hype and see what we can find.



Firstly, congratulations to the Sun team and all the people involved, it is no small feat to relicense a language with the install base that Java has — navigating that legal minefield would have caused some grey hairs.



In the videos (http://www.sun.com/2006-1113/feature/customers.jsp) that Sun has from members of the open source/free software community applauding the announcement, it is clear that one of the places that Sun hopes Java will reach is the desktop on Linux.



Here is where I see the bitter irony kicking in. Whatever happened to the Java Linux Desktop that Sun was promoting? If it wasn't swept under the carpet wouldn't it be the perfect vehicle for the new open Java to show what it can do now? Of course it would be, but like so many things to come out of Sun recently, it was a fad and the company moved it onto OpenSolaris.



It's now possible to incorporate Java into any GPLed project you wish — the people that are going to show us this on Linux are the Red Hats and Ubuntus of the world. The bird has flown the coup on the desktop front for Sun. It's a shame for them because it could have been so much different.



This whole process is an amazing turnaround for a company that came up with all manner of excuses to not open up the language for years. Petrified that IBM or Microsoft would take it over and run with it, they kept Java close to their bosom - far closer and far longer than they should have. How is that situation different to the one we have now?



Microsoft could announce their own fork tomorrow if they wanted. Sun went to court over this previously but it is okay now.



What's changed? Microsoft have gained significant mindshare with the .NET platform and C# language, the IBM-backed project Harmony is gaining momentum, and Sun's mindset internally has shifted towards free software. Back in the day Sun was a guardian of all that was anti-Microsoft. Yes, no; black, white; too and fro they went. Sun isn't that rebellious tennager-like company anymore, it has regressed into the mind of a three year old and is crying out for attention. Perhaps open source is the path back for Sun.



With a little bit of foresight there would be an amazing showcase of what can happen now. As it stands, all this is still in the thoughts of open source developers and we'll see the results over the coming years.



The future is seems, remains what should have been yesterday.

About Chris Duckett

Some would say that it is a long way from software engineering to journalism, others would correctly argue that it is a mere 10 metres according to the floor plan.During his first five years with CBS Interactive, Chris started his journalistic advent...

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