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JavaSoft jabs at industry titans

President Alan Baratz takes rivals HP and Microsoft to task for what he sees as attempts to make Java a proprietary technology.

SAN FRANCISCO--Executives from Sun Microsystems' (SUNW) JavaSoft division came out swinging at the JavaOne conference here today.

JavaSoft president Alan Baratz, in a morning keynote, took rivals Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft to task for what he sees as attempts to make Java a proprietary technology.

"I would say to some of those industry titans that think you can build technology in a closed room these days and promise that in some point in future it will become open, [they are] are missing the boat," Baratz said. "What will happen is that they will become overconfident and lose sight of what's going on in the world around them."

Baratz's jabs were aimed primarily at HP's announcement last week that it will build its own Java Virtual Machine (JVM) for embedded devices. "Eat your heart out, HP," he declared as JavaSoft demonstrated its JVM for embedded devices today.

The HP announcement See special coverage: Java chaos initially gave rise to confusion in the industry. Although the move appeared to be a snub, Sun at first voiced little concern about it in public--leaving questions about its significance. This week, however, JavaSoft has made clear its opposition to HP's decision, saying that it may even violate some terms of its license.

After the keynote, Baratz told a press conference that he had even offered to waive HP's licensing fee to keep it from pursuing its own version of embedded Java. He said the conflict centered on control of Java as a standard.

"Money wasn't the issue. It was the ISO process," Baratz contended, referring to the International Standards Organization's agreement to let Sun remain in the driver's seat for Java specifications. HP, Microsoft, and others last year opposed that effort, contending that much power shouldn't be given to one company.

As reported yesterday, however, Sun is in no hurry to open a legal battle with HP over the Java issue. Sun has begun discussions with HP chief executive Lewis Platt, and Baratz said he doesn't believe that Platt wants to infringe on Sun's intellectual property rights.

"I don't think they were properly informed" about the intellectual property issues, Baratz said. "We have now made the documents available to [Platt]."

The HP flap did not deter Sun from making deals with other companies, such as Ericsson. The Swedish company announced it has licensed Java for devices ranging from cellular phones to telephone network switches.

"It was more valuable to us in terms of dollars than the HP license," Baratz told a press conference after the keynotes.

Baratz characterized the HP and Microsoft efforts as "foisted on the industry with the promise that they will be open."

"Have you heard anything about standardization of ActiveX in the last year?" Baratz asked rhetorially, referring to a Microsoft technology.

"There isn't anything we do at Sun that doesn't include participation from many companies," he added. "For any individual enhancement to the Java platform, there may be competitors working together to assure that we have the right, architecture-neutral cross-platform solution."

Baratz described JavaSoft's process as more open, involving experts from its licensees, feedback from those licensees, and postings on its Web site in draft form before final publication.

JavaSoft's parent, Sun, has long battled with Microsoft and is embroiled in a lawsuit over Microsoft's use of a Java logo on its Windows Java Virtual Machine, which Sun insists is not fully compatible with Sun's Java.

In a countermove today, Sun said it will develop a JVM for Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, which is designed to run on small devices, adding Windows CE to the list of nine Java-enabled operating systems for small devices.

Sun will also create a software Java PC using older computers built on Intel's 386 chips and running Windows 3.1 operating system, Bartz said, in effect turning the older PCs into network computers.

Baratz also predicted that the Java industry will generate more than $1 billion this year and that its users will rocket from 7 million to 700 million in the next four years.

James Gosling, one of the creators of Java, described Java's progress in the last year, pointing to better security, interoperability, and speed.

"The thing we care about more than anything else is interoperability," Gosling said.

Baratz also said JavaSoft's priorities for its efforts on the Java platform will change this year.

"Our work to date could be characterized as breadth over depth," he said. "JavaSoft has been almost single-mindedly focused on getting the functionality into the platform that was needed. We now hear that we need to do more depth than breadth."

JavaSoft also contended the Web server announced today is designed as a development platform, not something that would compete with Netscape's Web Application Server.