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Sun still holds tight reins on Java

An independent effort to loosen Sun's control over the future of Java development is quashed with a no vote that keeps Sun in the Java driver's seat for now.

An independent effort to loosen Sun's control over the future of Java for cranes, robots, and other devices that need "real time" operating systems was quashed today with a "no" vote that puts Sun back in the Java driver's seat for now.

The National Committee for Information Technology Standards (NCITS) group rejected a proposal by a group of hardware and software developers that wanted greater control over how Java will be implemented in industrial equipment or other devices. The proposal was at odds with a development and licensing scheme proposed by Sun.

The fight over the standard involved a number of heavy-hitters in the technology world. Hewlett-Packard led the dissenting group of developers. "No" votes, however, came from IBM, Sybase, and Sun Microsystems.

As planned, Sun will go ahead with its new, looser development process for extending Java, said Sun spokeswoman Elizabeth McNichols.

"This group has been stopped in its tracks," McNichols said. "What it means is that Sun and IBM and several other companies are going to move forward with the process we've designed for creating extensions and APIs for Java."

NCITS had agreed to vote on whether to shepherd the effort by the Real-Time Java Working Group, and formed a 10-member group called R1 to consider the option. But three members of R1--IBM, Sybase, and Sun--voted against the group developing a standard for the extensions, said Kelvin Nilsen, chief technology officer of NewMonics, a member of the group. Those "no" votes led to a second round of voting that killed the effort.

Nonetheless, Nilsen indicated that the splinter group would in the future pursue cooperation with Sun as well as its own agenda.

"Moving forward, the Real-Time Java Working Group remains committed to its original objectives and to working with Sun to create standard real-time extensions for the Java platform," Nilsen said in an email to members of the group.

Acronym soup The Real-Time Java Working Group (RTJWG), with at least 25 members, is led by Hewlett-Packard and includes Aonix, Lynx Real-Time Systems, Microsoft, and NewMonics, among others. The companies have an interest in developing hardware and software for equipment such as jets or industrial robots that must respond instantly to events like someone pressing a stop button.

Last fall, the group split off from the Real-Time Requirements Group, a group with a similar purpose led by Sun and IBM. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was overseeing the effort of the Real-Time Requirements Group to lay the groundwork for a establishing the standard, called "Real-Time Extensions to the Java API" for these types of systems.

The Real-Time Java Working Group chafed at Sun's rules for handing over intellectual property rights to Sun, the pace of the real-time effort, and the fact that Sun had ultimate control over the standard. They RTJWG approached the NCITS to oversee the writing of a new real-time extension under its NCITS rules.

The NCITS agreed, a process that led up to today's vote. Up until today's vote, The Working Group and the Requirements Group have been meeting this week in San Diego, and Java founder James Gosling has been attending both meetings. In December, Sun announced looser licensing and development plans for Java, including a change that lets Sun initiate efforts to let outside companies develop extensions to Java. Under that process, Sun solicits applications from experts, chooses an expert to lead the effort, and lets that expert handle the selection of further experts to create the standard.

Jim Mitchell, Sun's vice president of architecture and technology for Java, said Sun planned to "beta test" the new process with the real-time extensions to Java.

However, as of this morning, HP still has not signed the Java Specification Participation agreement, which is Sun's proposal.

Complaints about the process
Working Group members were dissatisfied with Sun's tight control over standards and the fact that Sun would have the ultimate say on Java standards. And some companies objected that Sun didn't listen to them unless they paid Sun to license the Java technology.

"We do not feel that Sun's process is sufficiently open and vendor-neutral, but in fact creates an environment in which Sun Microsystems can potentially enforce positions which provide an advantage to their products," the Real-Time Java Working Group said in a statement.

Most of the new standards for extending Java are taking place in the area of consumer devices--electronic equipment such as television set-top boxes or telephones or car navigation systems, Mitchell said. "That's where we see a lot of new APIs," he said. "On those things, we won't be the ones driving it."