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Sun may audit its Java efforts

Stung by criticism that it could manipulate Java, the company may hire a Big Five accounting firm to review its activities.

Stung by criticism that it could manipulate the Java standards process to its own benefit, Sun Microsystems is discussing whether to hire a Big Five accounting firm to audit its activities.

The move would address complaints from competitors that it maintains too much control over the Java standards, even though it won that control in November from the International Standards Organization.

"The industry looks to us in the stewardship role, and we need to continue to perform up to their expectations," a Sun spokeswoman said. "We want to assure people that what we're doing is the right thing, that we do what we say we'll do. It's just a certification that we are following our own rules."

An auditor is being considered specifically for creating or changing Java application programming interfaces (APIs) and specifications in the future, but the exact scope has not been determined. It could apply to Enterprise JavaBeans, JavaBeans, Java Help, Java Mail, and the like.

Sun still has not submitted the Java language to the ISO, a process it now expects to complete by February of next year. First to be submitted are the language, class libraries, and virtual machine, which make up the core platform. Sun says the standards body requires very specific formatting, so changing the specification's current language has been a painstaking process.

The Sun spokeswoman added the auditor decision involves writing down the procedure and selecting an auditor to be sure the process is followed.

Despite the opposition of China and the United States, Sun was given "recognized submitter" status for Java, meaning it could submit Java directly to that standards organization rather than going through the lengthy review by other companies.

Giving special status to a single company is unusual for the ISO, which usually does that only for trade associations or consortia.

Microsoft and Sun have been at loggerheads over many elements on Java, and Hewlett-Packard has criticized Sun's stewardship of Java and also created its own virtual machine for small devices.

The need for an outsider to audit Sun standards activity arises in part because the company also is developing Java-based applications and tools that compete with other Java licensees in the market.