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Q&A: Sun's Jonathan Schwartz on Java's future

He's not so sure about the idea of an open-source Java

By Carol Sliwa
June 19, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - SAN FRANCISCO -- Jonathan Schwartz, executive vice president of software at Sun Microsystems Inc., spoke with Computerworld during the recent JavaOne conference here about the possibility of Java becoming open-source, the potential market for Java in mobile devices and Java's relationship with IBM. Excerpts from that interview follow.
Should Java be made fully open-source? The problem with open-source is that [victory] goes to volume, and that's evident in the Linux community today where ISVs [independent software vendors] are qualifying to Red Hat and abandoning everyone else. Why? Because Red Hat has volume.
If Java were open-source, Microsoft could take it, deliver it as they saw fit and drive a definition of Java that was divergent from the one that the community wanted to be compatible. And to the victor would go the spoils of that nefarious action.
To the extraordinary credit of the Java Community Process [JCP], we have a uniform compatible standard that now spans hundreds of millions of devices, hundreds of millions of smart cards, hundreds of millions of desktops and tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of servers. So you have to really be careful in understanding the distinction between open-source and open standards.

Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems Inc.
Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems Inc.
An IBM executive once equated those two terms to me. IBM is dead wrong, and I also think that IBM is somewhat duplicitously straddling that gap for its own benefit, exploiting the open-source community on the one hand and then on the other hand, trying to derive a proprietary advantage from its implementations of open-source products and trying to fork the marketplace. I don't believe that open-source leads to more innovation. I think open-source leads to a different kind of innovation. ... What will cause open-source products to win is if they are better, and it has nothing to do with source code. To any CIO I've ever met, source code is like a free puppy. It's great the day you get it. It's really cute. But then you have to feed it, get it its shots, take it for a walk, etc.
Some developers who attended your JavaOne conference said they think Java should be open-source. I think the licensees understand the integrity that the Java Community Process drives. It's interesting about the Java Community Process, because the only companies that really don't like the community process are the companies that have approached me or one of my direct reports with an attempt to try to do something outside the JCP and leave everyone else behind. We don't talk a


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