Miko Matsumura, who for three years was Sun Microsystems' designated Java evangelist, says the Java standard now is well enough established that Sun can move it closer to the free-for-all development model of open source programming.
Matsumura is confident enough of Java's future that he has hung up his "Javangelist" hat and has taken a job with a Java start-up called BizTone that hopes to sell Java-based services to the corporate world. (For more information on Matsumura, check his Web page.)
"Historically, Java has needed the amount of protection it has been able to achieve through Sun," Matsumura said. "I don't think a distributed band of Linux-like hackers could have defended Java" from threats such as Microsoft, he said. "Java needed the protection of Sun to ensure compatibility."
Sun's Community Source License, which Sun announced last week at its Java Business Expo, will act as a catalyst for this next stage of Java development. The program opens up Java's original source code for research and development uses. Licensees must pay only at the stage where they ship commercial products using Java. The license also protects the intellectual property of outside organizations who contribute to the Java effort, not requiring that their work be turned over to Sun.
"This open community source licensing is a way to open things up and accelerate...the rate of innovation," he said.
Although it's a step in the direction of open source initiatives such as the Linux operating system and the Apache Web server, Sun still keeps some control. For example, Sun still requires compatibility testing to ensure that Java still works on different systems.
Matsumura said Sun had to deal with a lot of pressure from companies that wanted a swifter development of Java 2, formerly known as the Java Development Kit (JDK) version 1.2. Improving Java's stability, performance, and features "was really important to us and took longer than we thought to achieve. People were waiting to see the release of the platform." That was probably the "darkest phase" in Matsumura's career as Javangelist.
His career began in 1995, when he left a job researching Java at HotWired to start plugging Java for Sun. His first gig was speaking in a tent at Java Day in Menlo Park, California. Since then, he has "evangelized" an estimated 100,000 people on the benefits of Java, he said. Along the way, he's engaged in stunts like bungee-jumping off a bridge wearing the outfit of Java's pointy-headed mascot, Duke.
The early years of Java had a "tangible excitement," when Java was just taking off in popularity and spreading from one Web browser to another, he said.
At the same time, though, people had a difficult time understanding just what Java was, and, as Sun struggled to describe it, competitors found it easy to "pigeonhole" Java, he said.
Now, Matsumura believes he's leaving Java strong. For one thing, Sun has released Java 2. And for another, the America Online acquisition of Netscape ensures that AOL Web browsers will have Java and that all Netscape browsers will support the new features of Java 2.
BizTone to bring Java to ERP
Matsumura's new job is with BizTone, a company that wants to make money off of computer transactions for a type of large-scale computer software called enterprise resource planning (ERP). ERP software from companies such as SAP handles tasks such as accounting, human resources management, production management, sales, distribution, and materials management. BizTone's products and services are essentially aimed at making it easier for companies to implement ERP solutions.
BizTone, until recently known as Madura, will give away its software for free, Matsumura said, but will charge for transactions that use the software. In BizTone's business model, third-party service providers will sell BizTone services to companies, freeing those companies from having to spend money on the expensive computers and software that ERP is known for.
Those service providers will set the transaction cost, then pay BizTone a "wholesale" rate of a penny per transaction, Matsumura said. BizTone intends to arrange partnerships with telecommunications companies, banks, and other service providers to host the BizTone services, and BizTone will depend on third-party developers to write many of the software applications that will plug into the BizTone ERP system.