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Java standard voted down--for now

Sun runs into new roadblocks in its efforts to make its Java programming language an international standard.

Sun Microsystems (SUNW) has run into new roadblocks in its efforts to make its Java programming language an international standard.

Sun's JavaSoft unit is seeking approval from a branch of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission to submit its application directly to that body without going through the usual preliminary steps. If approved, Sun would become the first commercial company ever allowed to go directly to ISO, although a number of industry consortia have such status with ISO.

But members of Joint Technical Committee have roundly rejected Sun's proposal in its current form. While the votes don't kill Sun's efforts to standardize Java, they do send a strong signal that the company must change its approach to win approval.

Sun is seeking status as a so-called "publicly available submitter," or PAS. A PAS acts as a kind of standards body itself, accepting proposals to improve or update a technology, then passing them to the joint technical committee of the ISO/IEC for final approval.

Comments submitted with their initial votes indicate members of Joint Technical Committee don't want to hand Sun that much power. In the first phase of voting, 3 countries approved Sun's application as submitted, 5 voted to approve it with comments, and 15 rejected it with comments.

The comments, a key element in the approval process, focus on three areas: Sun's desire to keep the Java trademark for itself and have the ISO standard called something else; what body will be responsible for updating and maintaining the Java standard; and whether Sun will be open in accepting changes to the standard.

"Sun should allow the 'Java' name to be used in ISO/IEC standards resulting from Sun's PAS submissions," wrote the French delegation in voting "no with comments." France said its vote could be reversed if Sun meets that and other conditions.

Two weeks ago, Sun expressed confidence that it could win approval and make Java an international standard. At that time, only the U.S. "no with comments" vote had been publicized, but Sun still clung to the hope it could keep the Java name to itself.

"We are preparing our response to the comments. Once we provide the response to ISO, then we will have something to say publicly," JavaSoft spokeswoman Elizabeth McNichols said today. She added Sun may submit its response before the September 9 deadline.

Sun has 60 days to submit a revised application to address those issues. The 27 national bodies that make up the Joint Technical Committee then have 45 days to consider Sun's responses and vote whether to give Sun its coveted PAS status.