Sun Microsystems is pushing Java closer to the open source world.
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Graham Hamilton, Sun vice president and fellow, Java platform team, said his company is introducing two new licenses for the Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) that will make the process of gaining access to Java source code easier for developers. But the company still has no plans to introduce an open source license for Java.
J2SE is the software used by developers for developing and building applications of the desktop. When the new licenses are finally released as part of an initiative code named Project Peabody, they will be used in conjunction with Mustang edition of J2SE, due out in 2006.
The first new license, called the Java Internal User License (JIUL), is directed towards corporate customers that use Java to build business applications. Hamilton said JIUL will make customers' lives simpler when it comes to viewing source code and rooting out the problems a Java application might be having.
"Developers want to be able to see the source code," Hamilton said. "For some it is curiosity, and for others it is because of some problem in their own source code."
Hamilton said there is an existing process for dealing with problems like bug fixes, but that to date the process has been cumbersome.
The second license, called the called the Java Distributed License, will allow Java vendors to create a contract with Sun. This will be the same as the existing commercial license, which Hamilton said will be abandoned for future versions of J2SE.
Hamilton said an interesting aspect to the JIUL license is that it will employ the use of an honor system between Sun and developers who wish to use it.
"Developers must agree to honor compatibility, but because it is internal use it is used on the honor system," Hamilton said. "You agree to not do anything to break compatibility, and this allows for simpler license. Don't shoot yourself in the foot, but shoot yourself in the foot if you want to."
Hamilton said Sun is also seeking to educate users on the risks of making changes to Java software, especially if they get too enthusiastic about making their own versions of J2SE.
Java's open source willies
The news about the JUIL and JSL licenses was part of a wide ranging press conference that eventually touched upon the subject of open source Java.
James Gosling, chief technology officer at Sun's developer products group, once again quashed any open source rumors about the Java license.
With Java "we have mainly people who are just trying to do their jobs and build enormous Java applications," Gosling said. "By and large, they are actually somewhere between uninterested and hostile to the wide and wooly world of open source."
Because of this belief, Sun has been trying to do a "delicate balancing act" with Java and respect the needs of both sides of the debate, Gosling said.
David M. Smith, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., said it makes sense for Java to become part of the open source community. Smith said a two-tiered framework already exists for developers in enterprise Java and Microsoft's .NET platform, and that independent software vendors developing applications are interested in refining the number of frameworks they write to.
"Releasing Java to the open source community would continue to build upon the belief that fewer is better," he said. There would be "a combination of Java and open source on one side and .NET on other, so that ISVs and developers can deploy on either side and know it will run anywhere."