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Sun harmony with Harmony? Not yet clear

SAN FRANCISCO--It's not yet clear whether Sun Microsystems' decision to release Java Standard Edition as open-source software will mean a unification with Harmony, a project begun at the Apache Software Foundation in 2005 to create an open-source Java SE.

"It's hard to say" whether unification is possible, said Harmony founder and contributor Geir Magnusson. "At this point, we know nothing about licensing or the community governance model, which are critical elements of Apache projects."

Sun announced Monday it would make Java SE open-source software by mid-2007, with two components, the JavaC compiler and Hotspot virtual machine, arriving by the end of 2006. The move is a significant turnaround from the company's earlier refusal.

Sun hasn't yet selected what license or licenses it will use. However, the company said, it would like to have a unified Java effort, said Laurie Tolson, vice president of developer products and programs.

Magnusson would prefer Sun to pick the Apache License, unsurprisingly. "It incorporates modern thinking with respect to patents, and grants broad freedoms to users, with very few limits," he said.

Magnussun shared more thoughts on his blog a few hours before Sun made its announcement. "Sun needs to balance two things: Dealing with their darkest fears around compatibility with the need for a licensing regime in which all players can innovate and control their own intellectual property," he said. "Clearly the General Public License (GPL) won't do. While I am a big fan of the Apache License and the full freedom it offers, I can live with the Community Development and Distribution License (CDDL) and other soft-copyleft licenses."

But the license is a secondary issue, he added.

"The community that Sun creates around their open source implementation of Java will be the most important aspect--more important than the license," he said. "People want to participate on a level playing field where all activity is transparent, where everyone is a peer and everyone shares in the same benefits of the collaboration. To that end I hope that Sun creates a community that allows anyone to be a committer after some amount of demonstrated competence."