This time, the battleground is over the process for determining a specification called "Real-Time Extensions to the Java API," which would govern how time-critical commands are handled by devices running Java programs.
Basically, the dispute is a control issue about how companies should be included in the setting of this and other Java standards.
HP and several other companies want Sun to "revise its standards process in a way that would let the members be a full part of it," said Jim Bell, general manager of HP's embedded software operation. But because Sun was unwilling to go along with such a request, they decided to form their own group, the Real-Time Java Working Group.
HP believes Sun will keep too much control in settling the specification. If Sun gets its way, "Sun will continue to control the decision process at all steps," Bell said.
But Sun's Curtis Sasaki said Sun is open to participation by others, and that openness has characterized the writing of more than 30 different API specifications in the last three years.
"We've always developed specifications in an open, collaborative process," Sasaki said. "I'm baffled by people saying we don't have an open process."
However, Sasaki said in no uncertain terms that Sun wants to keep control of Java. Sun, as the "inventor of Java," has a "critical role...to make sure the platform is evolved in a well-orchestrated way. We have to play the role of making sure the Java platform does not get fragmented."
Right now Sun is trying to define a "very clear, open, documented process for how extensions to the Java platform are defined, so there's no confusion about how Java evolves," Sasaki said.
The dispute over how to add real-time extensions to Java is important. These extensions would define how a device running Java programs--for example, an industrial robot in charge of a bucket of molten steel--would immediately execute commands. Presently, programmers have to avoid Java for such critical actions.
Having the real-time extensions in place would allow programmers to use Java for more devices, allowing Sun to "take Java into spaces where it isn't today." Sun makes money each time it licenses the Java technology.