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JavaOne: Sparks may fly at open-source debate

By James Niccolai
June 23, 2004 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - The stage is set for some fireworks on the last day of the JavaOne show next week, where Sun Microsystems Inc. has assembled a panel to debate the thorny issue of whether it should release its Java technology under an open-source license.

Titled "The Big Question ...," the panel is scheduled for next Thursday and will feature, among others, Sun engineer and Java creator James Gosling, Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig and IT publisher Tim O'Reilly, according to the JavaOne Web site.

The initial list didn't include a representative from IBM, which ignited the current debate in February when Rod Smith, its vice president for emerging technologies, penned an open letter to Sun encouraging it to make Java open-source and offering to help it do so.

On Tuesday, an IBM spokeswoman said Smith will take part in the panel after all, having been cleared to do so by IBM. Other participants will include Sun Vice President Rob Gingell, to whom Smith's letter was addressed; James Governor, principal analyst at Red Monk, and a representative from MLB Advanced Media LP, which runs Major League Baseball's Web site.

"Numerous individuals and organizations suggest that Java technology adopt a new community and development model. This panel will dive into the tangle of granular technical and legal issues, including the potential trade-off between technologists' calls for openness vs. the market's demand for compatibility," according to a description at the JavaOne site.

Some observers have speculated that Sun will reach a decision on the matter in time for next week's show, but that seemed unlikely based on comments in an e-mail message from Gosling on Tuesday. The panel will try to address whether Java should be made open-source and, if so, how, he wrote.

"There's an enormously complicated tangle of issues. Most of the folks in the open-source world have a pretty simplistic view of the landscape. When we talk to folks in the broader Java world, the question is far from clear-cut. There's no chance that we'll have enough time to cover everything during the session, but we hope to make a start," he wrote in response to questions.


Some open-source advocates have echoed IBM's call to release the code for Java. The argument in favor is generally that the move would strengthen Java by allowing for more innovation and providing more flexibility for developers.

Sun has said it is open to the idea but wants to study the issue more closely before it decides. "The debate is still going on fast and furious," Gosling said earlier this month.

Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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