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Open-source Java could result in port to iPhone

By Paul Krill
November 15, 2007 12:00 PM ET

InfoWorld - With the first anniversary of open-source Java this week, a Sun Microsystems Inc. official said he believes the project could bear a sought-after fruit in the Java community: the porting of Java to Apple Inc.'s iPhone.

Apple has not made Java capable of running on the popular device. But Sun's Terrence Barr, technical evangelist for Java ME (Micro Edition), believes Apple's plans to release a software developer's kit for iPhone in early 2008 may result in the open-source phoneME version of Java ME winding up on iPhone.

"It is quite likely that people will start porting phoneME to the iPhone to provide Java that way. I expect that to happen as a community effort," Barr said.

Java developers have clamored for Java on the iPhone, an effort that Sun has said would enable many Java applications to run on the device. But Apple has been dismissive of having Java on the iPhone. Apple could not be reached for comment last week.

Meanwhile, Sun officials lauded the progress of open-source Java after one year and said the effort has not resulted in any forking: No versions of Java have shown up that are incompatible with the main platform.

Developers "want this stuff to be compatible," said Rich Sands, community marketing manager for Java Platform Standard Edition at Sun.

From the May release of the Java Development Kit via the OpenJDK open-source project, the entire base of more than 6.5 million lines of code has been downloaded 12,677 times as of Oct. 27.

Sun chose GNU General Public License version 2 (GPLv2) for OpenJDK in November 2006. This was considered an unusual choice at the time because Sun had its own Common Development and Distribution License for open source. But GPLv2 discouraged forking and encouraged compatibility, Sands said.

About 96% of Java has been released as open source, with the remaining 4% encumbered and released only as binaries. That 4% included some graphics libraries and encryption libraries. The IcedTea project, launched by the Red Hat Fedora community, aims to fill out the remainder of the JDK with free, compatible software, Sands said. Sun officials cited Red Hat Inc.'s joining the OpenJDK community last week.

"The big picture for OpenJDK is that in one year's time, we have built a community. We have seen tremendous interest on the part of the free and open-source developers to join with us and work with us. We've seen several Linux distributions pick this up, and that's what IcedTea is about," Sands said.

Developers soon will be able to use the Mercurial source code system to manage the Java code.

Reprinted with permission from InfoWorld. Story copyright 2012 InfoWorld Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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