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Intel, Lucent don't follow Sun

The list of companies opposing Sun's plan to turn Java into an official standard keeps growing.

Lucent Technologies (LU), Intel (INTC), and AMP (AMP) have joined a growing list of companies opposing Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) plan to turn Java into an official standard.

Apple Computer (AAPL), Texas Instruments (TXN), Microsoft (MSFT), Compaq (CPQ), and Hewlett-Packard (HWP) have also come out publicly against the plan, saying that Sun is not giving up enough control of the technology.

Last week, Microsoft (MSFT), Compaq Computer (CPQ), and Hewlett-Packard (HWP) came out publicly against the plan, saying that Sun wants to get credit for making Java an open standard while maintaining control of the language.

It is unclear whether the companies' opposition will derail Sun's plan, but it is clear that Sun has not persuaded everyone that it is sincere about making Java a truly open standard.

The companies voiced their opposition on a Web site maintained by a joint technical committee of the two standards bodies that are considering the Java standard proposal: the International Standards Organization and the International Electrotechnical Commission.

Microsoft and Intel will not be able to vote on the Sun proposal anyway because company representatives have not attended enough meetings of the committee.

The United States contingent of the committee is accepting comments from high-tech companies on Sun's proposal until May 6, and will vote on it in early June. An international committee composed of more than 22 member countries will take a final vote on Sun's proposal in July.

In March, Sun announced its plan to turn Java into an official rather than a de facto standard. By turning it into a formal standard, Sun hopes to spread the use of Java, particularly among governments and European companies, many of which will work only with officially sanctioned technologies.

It's hard to predict whether the opposition will scotch Sun's plan: their opposition is only one factor in determining the single U.S. vote. However, many of the members of the U.S. committee also have overseas branches and could influence the votes of other countries.

At least one country, Switzerland, has already decided to vote against Sun's plan, sources said.

The U.S. companies all expressed concern that the process by which Java is upgraded and improved will not really be open.

Sun has effectively applied to become a standards body in itself or, in ISO/IEC jargon, a "publicly available submitter" (PAS). A number of nonprofit, membership-based organizations such as X/Open and the Video Electronics Standards Association are PAS submitters, but Sun would be the first vendor to receive that distinction.

"Sun, like any other for-profit corporation in the computer software or hardware industry, has no mandate to achieve broad consensus," reads a letter from Microsoft senior vice president Brad Silverberg commenting on Sun's proposal. "By the terms of its corporate charter, its principal focus is maximizing shareholder value by competing with other companies for market share."

Last week, Sun executives said they do intend to keep Java open to contributions from other companies. "I believe in the rightness of our cause," said Jim Mitchell, vice president of technology and architecture at Sun's JavaSoft division. "I believe that our process is as open as any of the standards processes and has the additional benefit of being speedy."

Jennifer Garner, the administrator for the U.S. committee that it is handling the Sun proposal, said that there is nothing in the ISO/IEC bylaws that would prevent a single company from becoming a PAS submitter. Garner acknowledged, though, that the Sun proposal has caused significant controversy among other members.

"The PAS process is fairly new," she said. "We've only had a few submitters so far.

Compaq, HP, and others also criticized Sun's proposal to retain control of the valuable Java trademark. But Mitchell said that the ISO/IEC committee was happy to leave the trademark under Sun's control.

Not surprisingly, IBM (IBM), one of Sun's closet Java allies, says it will support Sun's plan even though IBM expressed some of the same concerns over trademark issues that the other companies did.

"Sun has chosen an unusual but appropriate vehicle to bring Java technologies forward as international standards," reads IBM's commentary on the Sun plan.

More U.S. organizations are expected to submit their comments on the Sun plan by tomorrow's deadline.