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Is Java as we know it doomed?

Oracle-Sun deal raises questions about future control of the open-source technology

By Paul Krill
April 21, 2009 12:00 PM ET

InfoWorld - While Oracle Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. are hailing Oracle's planned purchase of Sun as a big boost for Java, others aren't so sure, questioning what kind of control Oracle might try to exercise over the popular platform that has driven so many enterprise applications since it was first developed in 1995.

Observers also expect Oracle to make a go of trying to make more money off of Java than Sun ever could. They noted that Sun has tried to leverage Java as a lead-in to selling services, but without much success. in contrast, Oracle has been very disciplined about extracting money from its technologies.

"Java is one of the computer industry's best-known brands and most widely deployed technologies, and it is the most important software Oracle has ever acquired," the companies said in a joint statement announcing the acquisition. "Oracle Fusion middleware, Oracle's fastest growing business, is built on top of Sun's Java language and software. Oracle can now ensure continued innovation and investment in Java technology for the benefit of customers and the Java community."

(What on earth was Oracle thinking when it bought Sun? InfoWorld's Neil McAllister shows what the real motivation might be. Also, InfoWorld reports that Sun's efforts to make Java open source have led to decidedly mixed reviews.)

Oracle's commitment to investing in Java might mean that it will go full-force at trying to make money off of Java, a path Sun hasn't pursued strongly. "I think that they will realize that they want as many people using Java as possible so that's good for their middleware," said Rod Johnson, CEO of SpringSource Inc. and the original developer of the popular open-source Spring Framework for Java application development. He added that the acquisition move was partly defensive, because Oracle probably didn't want competitor IBM owning the Java language.

Oracle has been "better at making money off everything than Sun was before," concurred Vivek Ranadive, CEO of Tibco Software Inc., a middleware company whose products compete with some Oracle offerings. As a rival, he put a negative spin on that trait: "They're not beyond finding ways to make more money off something, and it's always at the customers' expense," Ranadive said. For example, he said that when buying companies previously, Oracle has sought to increase maintenance revenues.

Does Java's open source status help it?

Theoretically, Sun isn't supposed to be the owner of Java: It has offered up its version of the technology as open-source software. And the Java Community Process (JCP) has been set up as a multiparty organization to oversee the amending of the platform. But Sun has remained the dominant force in Java, with the company always at the forefront of new developments.

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