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Motorola picks home for its open-source Java

Mobile phone maker urges others to help build open-source Java ME at the Apache Software project.

Motorola plans to build an open-source version of Java for gadgets such as mobile phones within the framework of the Apache Software project.

The work to develop the Java Micro Edition (ME) software will use the Apache License, Motorola said Tuesday, inviting others to participate in creating "a complete Java ME software stack."

The move follows the company's pledge in May to release its software relating to a cell phone variant of Java ME called MIDP (Mobile Information Device Profile) 3.0.

Sun Microsystems created Java, which lets the same program run on a wide variety of computer systems without having to be adapted for each one, and Motorola has long been a licensee and collaborator. In August, Sun announced its intent to release its version of Java ME as open-source software by the end of 2006.

However, it's not clear whether the Motorola and Sun projects are complementary or competing. Motorola declared in a statement that it's trying to "reduce Java fragmentation"--a possible open-source affliction in which developers split the same project into incompatible versions. But Motorola indicated that the two companies are not working closely when it comes to open-source Java.

"Although we are not aware of Sun's open-source plans, we would hope Sun would join in this effort," said Mark VandenBrink, a senior director and chief platform architect in Motorola Mobile Devices business.

It's likely Sun and Motorola will use different licenses. Motorola chose the Apache License, but last week, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz said his company is likely to use the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL) for open-source Java.

Different licenses can complicate or prohibit code sharing among open-source products. But Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer, said Wednesday that according to Sun and Apache, CDDL and Apache code may be intermingled.

VandenBrink said Motorola's Java ME work "is a natural evolution of Apache's Harmony project." Harmony is an effort to create an open-source version of Java Standard Edition (SE), the version that runs on PCs and servers. Harmony was launched in 2005 in the days before Sun committed to make Java open-source, and the project has backing from IBM.

A Motorola representative said Motorola's expectation is to have its Java project hosted within the Apache group of software projects, where Harmony also is located. With Harmony at Apache, and with Apache's methods of collaboration and consensus-based development, "we felt it made sense to host the Java ME stack here as well," VandenBrink said.

Geir Magnusson, vice president of the Harmony project, offered a warm reception to Motorola. "The Apache Harmony project--like all Apache projects--is very interested in building a diversified community, so they certainly are very welcome if they do eventually choose to work there," Magnusson said.