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IBM calls for open-source Java

IBM has called on Java creator Sun Microsystems to join an effort to turn its proprietary Java code over to the open-source community.

In an open letter to Rob Gingell, chief technology officer of Sun's software group, IBM's VP of emerging technologies Rod Smith proposed that IBM and Sun join forces on "an independent project to open source Java." Smith said IBM would agree to "provide technical resources and code for the open source Java implementation" and suggested that Sun "provide the open source community with ... Java specifications, tests and code."

A Sun spokeswoman yesterday confirmed Sun's receipt of the open letter, but said the firm had yet to offer an official response.

In an interview with eADT, Bob Sutor, director of IBM's WebSphere infrastructure software unit, said the open letter "is a way to get started" on an effort to "stop producing redundant implementations of Java" by companies like Sun, IBM and BEA Systems. "We're trying to get an official open-source version of Java," Sutor said.

IBM and Sun skirmished over the fate of Java in its early days when Sun first agreed to, and then backed away from, plans to submit the code to a standards body about five years ago. Sun has since controlled the standard with external input via the so-called Java Community Process. The two firms have also battled over the need for the open-source Eclipse tool platform championed by IBM and recently passed on to an independent standards consortium dubbed eclipse.org.

Sutor said IBM reached out to Sun now because "reading the tea leaves, it seemed like a good time" based on statements by Sun executives and the creation of eclipse.org. "This is important, so we have to keep asking," Sutor said. "It would be easy to be snarky, but our attitude is 'come on, let's get this done.'"

Sutor said IBM also hopes to talk to BEA, the other major Java player, if Sun can be convinced to support the plan.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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