Sun Microsystems is poised to release “significant parts” of the Java Standard Edition(JSE) under a free or open source licence by the end of 2006 — possibly under the Gnu General Public Licence(GPL).

Robert Brewin, co-CTO for Software at Sun Microsystems, told Builder AU the company are committed to plans to open source Java as officially announced at the companies JavaOne developer conference in May.

Brewin said Sun are currently investigating 5 software licence models — the GPL being among those considered — with the ultimate choice being decided on which would “serve the community as best as possible”.

When asked if it would be easier to use the GPL as the licence, Brewin replied that “It would be in some sense, but depends on the GPL version”.

While the company is committed to the 2006 deadline they could not disclose exactly which portions of Java would be released or whether it would be in complete source form or binary form.

Brewin conceded the process has been slow but says the company is trying to work through issues around intellectual property, patents, and fears of incompatibilities and forking from the Java community.

“That’s why we’re taking so long to get to where we are. People have built tens of billions of dollars on top of Java and people are dependant on this. They dont want weirdness in the platform,” Brewin said.

With the number of patents that Sun and others such as IBM hold on the Java technology, plus the direction of the GPL heading towards excluding patents on free software, there are a number of issues that need to be worked out before this process is complete.