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12/12/2006
08:33 PM
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Sun's Open Source Java Moves Are Bold, Smart, and Limited

Sun's recent decision to open-source some elements of Java is pretty exciting -- but a few years overdue, says InformationWeek columnist Eric A. Hall

But having said that, these are still significant announcements, and should be applauded by users and the industry alike. In the short-term, the biggest beneficiaries will be those vendors who have committed to Java in a big way already, since this move should make it much easier to develop and debug Java applications. In the mid-term, operating system and embedded system vendors are also likely to benefit from this shift, since they will be able to incorporate an efficient and "standard" JVM into their platforms, without having to dance around vendor-specific licensing agreements. Long-term, users will win the most from having a widely-available cross-platform language and interpreter. The only loser here is Microsoft, who now has to either match Sun's moves by making .Net runtimes available for other platforms (with GPL licenses), or risk losing developer mindshare to the free and ubiquitous Java.

The benefits to Sun are less obvious, unless you consider wounding Microsoft as a benefit (which, in this case, is probably accurate--if they don't control the common development languages, they can't dictate the future platforms as easily). More immediately, Sun will likely increase the number of commercial licenses as a result of increasing the "pull" demand of Java within the market, since more developers means more licensing opportunities, and high-quality (supported) Java libraries may continue to be a strong incentive for a while yet. Sun also sees opportunities for service and support revenue, although that is a longer-term trend that Sun has not yet realized.

Now if they would just include a C compiler in Solaris again....

Eric A. Hall worked in almost all segments of the networking industry over the past 20 years. He managed a regional network for a multinational corporation, served as lab director for Network Computing magazine, consulted to Fortune 100 and Wall Street clients, worked for a Silicon Valley startup, and founded his own startup. He wrote hundreds of articles, two technical books, and a handful of RFCs and drafts. He currently provides technical research services for his clients.

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