Once again, Sun Microsystems is trying to strike the right
balance between controlling its Java software and keeping it popular.
And, once again, Sun's proposal isn't exactly being greeted with applause.
Sun and representatives from major computing companies met today to discuss
a Sun proposal that gives others more say in controlling the future of
Java, a Sun spokeswoman said. Under the new proposed process, called
JCP 2.0, Sun will relinquish some control over Java development, including
the determination over when developments can be released to the public, the
spokeswoman said. However, the proposal unveiled by Sun is being met
Sun has gradually been relinquishing control of Java, software that
theoretically lets a program run on a multitude of different computers. But
some of Sun's biggest Java allies, notably IBM, have been clamoring for more control over Java.
The debate highlights the tension between some of the most powerful
computing companies as they try to steer Java in the direction each company
wants. Companies invited to review the new proposal were Apple, BEA
Systems, Compaq, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Novell, Oracle, Symantec and Wind River,
the Sun spokeswoman said.
The moderating tone from Sun reflects the influence of Pat Sueltz, leader of
Sun's software efforts and the former leader of IBM's use of Java.
Sueltz has seen what Java looks like from outside Sun and assembled a panel
to address community control of Java.
The conflict over controlling Java was embodied in the years-long process
by which Sun attempted to have Java turned into a standard controlled by
many companies. That effort began at the International Organization for Standardization
but ended at a different group called ECMA. Lacking support from Sun, ECMA
disbanded its Java group today, and the ECMA secretary general sent a
scathing letter about Sun's participation.
"Their action over the past two years has resulted in an enormous waste of
experts' time and companies' money," wrote secretary general Jan van den
Beld last week in a letter obtained by CNET News.com.
Java first gained popularity as a way to bring fancy features to Web
browsers, then won a serious foothold in businesses using it in back-end
e-commerce software. Now Sun is trying to spread it to gadgets such as cell
phones. The problem has been that the spread of Java has conflicted with
Sun's desire to maintain a guiding hand in industry segments where it
didn't always have experience.
George Paolini, vice president of Java community development at Sun, said
in a letter to ECMA that Sun decided to keep control of Java within its Java Community
Process. "The Java Community Process has expanded its level of activity
to a point where we now believe the interests of the entire Java community
will be best met by continuing to evolve the Java specifications with the
open JCP process," Paolini wrote.
That process has been criticized as being too Sun-centric, to the point
where some have called it the
"Sun gated community process."
Under JCP 2.0, Sun would let others besides Sun establish new groups for
setting Java standards in new areas. And the proposal gives other companies
greater control in deciding when those efforts are ready to be transferred
from the initial development team to the public. It's not clear whether Sun
might be willing to yield on its current role of selecting the leader of
"Java was our little baby. (It was) very hard to let go of its hand when it
was taking its first steps," the spokeswoman said. "It's almost at the
adolescent stage. Maybe we should start letting it walk a bit more on its
There's no schedule for the changes, the spokeswoman said. "This is one of
many meetings. The draft we put down on the table is written in pencil."
One industry source familiar with the proposal still had reservations. "Sun
does maintain a veto power," the source said. Sun has loosened the reins