Is Java as we know it doomed?

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

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Even so, the open-sourcing of Java has put the technology out into the community at large, and that is where improvements now come from, Johnson stressed. "The innovation in Java comes largely from open source," Johnson said Monday, reaffirming similar remarks he made last month, when it was IBM, and not Oracle, that was rumored to be buying Sun. "The language itself is open-sourced. I don't really see [Java] as something that Oracle can own in a meaningful sense."

Less optimistic, though, is Tibco's Ranadive, who asked whether Oracle can be trusted not to manipulate Java to its own ends. Oracle competitors such as SAP AG rely on Java, and they now must consider the impact of the Sun acquisition, he noted, asking "As you continue to put more eggs in the Java basket and your biggest competitor owns Java, what do you do?"

And Ranadive doesn't think Java's open-source status means all that much. In Java's case, the open-source label "is a bit of an oxymoron," he said. "It's really not open as such. All control [of an open-source software project] rests with the party that offers it. It used to be Sun, and now it'll be Oracle." Ranadive anticipates that Oracle will dominate the JCP in the same manner that Sun has.

SpringSource's Johnson, who serves as a member of the JCP executive committee, also expressed fears over Oracle's potential impact on the community process. "I think that there will be a lot of concern about Oracle potentially making the rules for Java," he said. Ironically, that may force the open-source community to more aggressively assert stewardship of Java, he added.

Neil McAllister, an InfoWorld blogger who speculated earlier this month that Oracle might buy Sun, anticipates changes in the JCP. "I think you will see Oracle having a lot more heft in the JCP," he said. "But also maybe it will change the direction a little bit, as far as what areas of Java development it sees as being important or relevant."

How Oracle's ownership may help Java

At the Eclipse Foundation, an open-source tools organization whose members include Oracle but not Sun, Executive Director Mike Milinkovich sees the planned merger as a "very positive sign for Java and open source."

Oracle "will be able to provide the resources and leadership to continue the innovation in the Java community," Milinkovich added. "I see their support for OSGi and Eclipse Equinox as being key to driving the next generation of runtime middleware based on the OSGi standard."

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