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Oracle licenses server version of Java

Sun Microsystems and Oracle are set to announce that Oracle has licensed the server version of Sun's Java software, leaving IBM as the only major holdout that hasn't agreed to Sun's terms.

And then there was one.

Sun Microsystems and Oracle will announce tomorrow that Oracle has licensed the server version of Sun's Java software, leaving IBM as the only major holdout that hasn't agreed to Sun's terms.

"They have signed," said George Paolini, vice president of Java community development, in an interview today. Except for IBM, "I would say that pretty much sums up the major players out there."

IBM and several other companies were conspicuously absent in December when Sun announced the server version of Java, called Java 2 Enterprise Edition. With the sign-up of Oracle, most of the holdouts have bought into Sun's vision of Java.

Fifteen companies now have licensed J2EE, Paolini said. About a half dozen companies that are "significant" but not major have not hammered out a J2EE license, Paolini said.

J2EE is designed to let companies run complex business software on powerful servers without having to worry about underlying details such as the particulars of the server's email or database software. IBM, a major Java backer, likes the nine software components that make up J2EE but wants to be able to offer them a la carte instead of as a full nine-course meal. Other licensees objected to royalty fees and concerns about J2EE adoption schedules.

Paolini attributed the hitches to Sun not giving enough warning to partners. "We didn't do our homework on educating the players and potential licensees on how to go about acquiring the technology. When we unveiled it, it was a bit of a surprise," he said.

Discussions with IBM continue daily, Paolini said.

The cooperation of Oracle is a significant step in the arduous path Sun has walked in trying to balance control over its Java software with widespread industry adoption. Sun also is trying to soothe the concerns of Java partners with a revision to the Java Community Process (JCP) Sun invented to give others a say in the future of Java.

Sun will announce the latest version of this process, called JCP 2.0, on Thursday, Paolini said. In it, Sun will cede more control to outside players but will reserve veto power to shoot down changes to core parts of Java it doesn't like.

On Thursday, two 12-company executive committees will

Gartner analyst Mark Driver says Sun's recent proposed changes to its Java Community Process are calming the concerns of software firms regarding its role as the standard bearer of Java technology.

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be announced, Paolini said--one for the Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) designed for gadgets such as Palm Pilots or car navigation systems, and the other for the J2EE server and Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) desktop computer editions of Java. The committees will serve until November, when they'll be replaced by elected members.

In the new process, major changes to J2ME, J2SE or J2EE will require approval by both Sun and at least two-thirds of the relevant executive committee, Paolini said.

Sun also has effective veto power over changes to the Java programming language and the Java virtual machine--the critical software that allows Java programs to run on such a wide variety of computers.

"We still have a role I would like to term 'stewardship,'" Paolini said. Others haven't always agreed with that description, however. The earlier version of the Java Community Process has been mockingly called the Java Gated Community Process because of the degree of "stewardship" Sun exercised.

The new process has its own potential pitfalls, though, Paolini said.

"It certainly has its share of bureaucracy," Paolini said of JCP 2.0. "The biggest risk is not the adoption of the technology, it is bureaucracy slowing the evolution of the technology down."

IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola are members of the JCP 2.0 committees, Paolini said.

Microsoft, embroiled in a years-old lawsuit with Sun about its Windows-specific modifications to Java, has not joined JCP, Paolini said. Microsoft's contract to sell Java expires in March 2001, he added.