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Sun loosens restrictions with new Java revision

A draft version of a new, more liberal way to control Sun Microsystems' Java software is scheduled for release at the end of April, the company says.

A draft version of a new, more liberal way to control Sun Microsystems' Java software is scheduled to be released at the end of April, the company said today.

As previously reported, Sun invited several companies to help revise Sun's Java Community Process (JCP), a method Sun created to include individuals and other companies in setting the future course of Java as it spreads to new domains. Sun's proposal for the new "JCP 2.0" includes an executive committee that would expand control of new Java specifications beyond Sun. The new process also would "liberalize" the terms of participation.

JCP 2.0 will be defined by Sun along with IBM, Compaq, Fujitsu, BEA Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Novell, WebGain, Wind River Systems, Bluestone, Computer Associates, GemStone, Insignia Solutions, Iona Technologies, Microware Systems and Sybase. Oracle also is participating, a spokeswoman for the database company said.

The JCP 2.0 effort includes some companies that have been involved in some of the more acrimonious Java debates that have sprung up as Sun has tried to spread the software into all manner of different computing environments.

For example, HP and Wind River are members of the J Consortium, a group that grew out of a run-in over the best way to bring Java into devices such as factory robots that must respond instantly. Sun has set up its own parallel effort, the Real-Time Experts Group.

While most members of the JCP advisory group endorsed revising the process, many were cautious. "HP believes the discussions on revising the JCP are a step in the right direction. The evolution of the JCP into an open, rapid, and vendor-neutral process will benefit the Java technology communities," said Linda Lawson, general manager of HP's application development organization, in a statement.

IBM also is participating in JCP 2.0, though with some reservations, an IBM spokesman confirmed today. IBM, a big fan of Java with a large financial interest in the technology, has been grappling with Sun over how to control the software. IBM also disagrees with Sun over a version of Java for back-end servers, despite increasing flexibility from Sun and a growing number of partners.

An IBM spokesman made it clear IBM believes the JCP 2.0 proposal hasn't gone far enough. "We think the JCP process is a step in the right direction if it's implemented properly, but Sun's proposal is not addressing the key issues," specifically licensing and branding policies, the spokesman said.

Sun indicated it's trying to mollify its Java parners. "We heard back from the industry that it wants assurance from Sun that its role as steward of the technology will be conducted under an even hand. We accept that responsibility and are now working with the advisory group to document and implement such a process," said George Paolini, Sun's vice president of Java community development.