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IBM steps into open-source Java project

Long an open-source Java advocate, Big Blue begins participating in Harmony and plans to submit code, exec says.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
2 min read
IBM has begun participating in open-source Java project Harmony and intends to contribute code to the initiative, according to a Big Blue executive.

In the past week, IBM has dedicated an employee to working with the proposed open-source project, which is being done at the Apache Software Foundation, said Rod Smith, vice president of advanced technology at IBM.

At this point, IBM's participation is limited to thoughts on design, but the company likely will contribute code to the project, Smith said.

"I think you'll see some code down the road. I'm sure you will. But right now, it's getting involved in some of the ideas and design they're trying to put together," he said. "We have some ideas on that, and hopefully that can be incorporated in the whole Harmony strategy."

Harmony was launched in May to create an open-source edition of Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE), the software needed to run Java programs on desktop PCs.

Smith said that IBM chose to wait before jumping in until the project's direction and goals were clearer.

"We really like to see the community get started, and they're still working out the rough edges of what they want to deliver. And we didn't want to disrupt that," he said.

IBM has long made it clear that it would like an open-source edition of Java. Last year, Smith sent an open letter to Rob Gingell, then-vice president at Sun Microsystems, urging the company to open source Java.

Sun has stopped short of doing that because open-source editions of Java could fragment the standard and cause compatibility problems, according to Sun executives. Sun has, however, changed its licensing policies, making it easier to see the Java SE code and make contributions to it.

Until now, neither IBM nor Java steward Sun have formally participated in the project, although employees from both companies have voiced their support.

In developer circles, however, there has already been speculation that IBM would participate in Harmony and contribute potentially significant portions of code.

IBM already has its own Java virtual machine--one of the components of Java SE--and a great deal of expertise in Java. In May, it acquired open-source Java application server company Gluecode, which employs open-source Java experts including Geir Magnusson Jr., one of the submitters of Project Harmony.