By Mark Driver, Gartner Analyst
A "level playing field" is most often cited as the major concern among software firms over Sun Microsystems' control of Java technology.
But growing industry support for Sun's Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) brand is a testament that Sun's recent proposed changes to its Java Community Process (JCP) have calmed the concerns of many software firms over its "benevolent dictator" role as the standard bearer of Java technology.
Although not a complete democracy, the new proposed JCP provides its members with more input and control over the evolution of the Java platform.
Until Oracle's adoption of Java, the most notable of recent J2EE licensees was BEA Systems. J2EE endorsement by BEA and Oracle adds considerable credibility to the brand and further pressures IBM, which faces a growing perception among consumers of isolation from the mainstream Java vendor community.
As collaborative efforts within the JCP evolve, the rate of Java's innovation will likely slow.
However, as Java continues its inroads into the e-business efforts of mainstream IT organizations, a predictable and steady evolution becomes preferable over the rapid rate of change in past years.
Although the "real world" value of the new JCP has yet to be realized, many software firms are giving Sun the benefit of the doubt. With minor exceptions (for example, Hewlett-Packard's Chai), significant defections or fragmentation among Java users have not occurred.
In fact, the most prevalent example of fragmentation, Microsoft's Windows-centric Java implementation, has been far from successful, because the vast majority of software firms have supported Sun's standard Java platform features.
If the proposed changes to the JCP are adopted, IT organizations can expect a shift to slower, but more open and collaborative advancements, in future Java platform technology.
However, if the proposed JCP fails to create and foster a more democratic collaborative environment, consumers can expect accelerated and aggressive efforts to introduce Java-compliant clones that are free of Sun's intellectual property.
Furthermore, consumers should expect that prolonged fear and uncertainty within the Java vendor family will also create renewed vendor interest and competition from Microsoft's emerging Web services e-business architecture.
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