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Java Creator Weighs In On Open Source Debate

As Java industry leaders prepare to debate at JavaOne 2004 whether Java's stewardship might be better in the open-source community than with Sun Microsystems, the technology's creator James Gosling weighed in on why he thinks open-sourcing Java remains a tricky issue.

On Thursday at the show, a panel of Java industry experts including Gosling will debate the myriad issues surrounding whether Java should adopt a new, open-source community model rather than remain within the Java Community Process (JCP), which is administrated by Sun including Gosling, a Sun vice president. In addition to Gosling, the panel is slated to include Lawrence Lessig, a Stanford professor and open-source advocate; James Governor, principal analyst and founder of Red Monk; and Rod Smith, IBM fellow and author of the famous Open Letter calling for Sun to open-source Java

Speaking to CRN at Sun's annual Java developer show Tuesday, Gosling cited the ever-popular compatibility issue as a reason Sun has to be careful if it decides to release the Java runtime environment or any of its associated technologies under one of the various open-source licenses.

The challenge is to find "some way we can do something that is in the open-source direction--something would pass the open-source smell test--and yet maintain compatibility," Gosling said.

Currently, Sun makes the Java virtual machine (JVM) and Java 2, Standard Edition (J2SE) technologies required to run Java on desktop clients free to anyone who wants to download the software. There is even a "Get Java Now" banner on the site to expedite the process. However, if companies want to redistribute Java, they have to pass a raft of compatibility tests, for which there is a fee. This has been a longtime point of contention, particularly for companies leveraging J2EE, the Java platform for building enterprise technologies that is the foundation of Java application servers, the engine on which enterprise Java applications are built. While Sun has never publicly unveiled what that fee for the compatibility tests is, J2EE licensees have said the fee is in the six figures, though it varies by licensee.

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