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Sun shakes up Java groups

Sun is reorganizing its Java software efforts to separate its standards-setting role from its efforts to sell Java-based applications.

Following last month's corporate shake-up, Sun Microsystems is reorganizing its Java software efforts to separate its Java standards-setting role from its efforts to sell Java-based applications.

The new Java Platform Group will license four versions of Sun's Java platform, work on relations with other companies backing Java, and remain the steward of the official Java standard, the latter role officially blessed by the International Standards Organization.

Separating the platform activities from Java tools and applications may defuse criticism that Sun has a conflict of interest in both shepherding Java as a platform and using that platform to build products that may compete with Java licensees.

"We're trying to create a group that is concentrating on developing the platform and working on the usage of the platform," said George Paolini, director of marketing for Sun's Java Software Division. "Other groups will be for discrete functions--tools or any other products for developers and software products for use in the enterprise."

But it remains unclear whether the reorganization, still in discussion stages and due to be officially announced next month, will insulate Sun from criticism that its profit-seeking Java efforts tarnish its role as steward of the Java standard.

"If there is not a wall between the revenue side and the standards side, it will be an issue," said Dwight Davis, an analyst with Summit Strategies who follows Microsoft and its Java strategy.

"You can't just go halfway and satisfy the companies in the industry, which see Sun as a tainted standards bearer because it does have a revenue agenda as well," Davis added. Sun's approach mimics Microsoft's efforts to separate its Windows platform activity from its applications, he said.

"Microsoft has been getting away with this for a while," he added, noting that Microsoft, unlike Sun, hasn't been designated an official standards bearer. "That raises the bar a little for Sun."

Paolini said, "We are sending a very clear message to the industry that we accept and respond to the role as steward of the technology."

Sun's Java reorganization follows a broader Sun shake-up that new president Ed Zander announced last month, doing away with separate operating companies within Sun. That higher-level regrouping is being followed by reorganizations within Sun's units, all of which are due to take effect July 1 with Sun's new fiscal year.

Alan Baratz, formerly president of JavaSoft, becomes president of the new Java Software Division, which itself has four groups--two for evangelizing the technology and two for applications and tools.

The Java Platform Group will create implementations of four Java platforms and license them. The four flavors are the basic Java Development Kit, Embedded Java for small devices, PersonalJava for handheld computing devices, and JavaCard for smart cards.

Current plans call for a Java Developer Group to handle developer relations and to oversee the 100% Pure Java testing program.

On the application side, where Sun's activities will likely compete with Java licensees, the Tools group will develop and market development tools and compilers, including some previously housed at SunSoft. The Enterprise Solutions Group will handle application servers and Webtop clients.