Lawyers are poring over the details and a Web site is under construction for Sun Microsystems' new "community source" approach to spreading the Java cause, pushing the arrival of the free source code into late January or February.
Announced Dec. 8 as a way of opening Java to many more developers, the details of the changes and timing of its arrival has caused some confusion in the Java community.
In essence, a new economic model and online source code availability license will arrive in 1999 that makes Java's base code available for free to many more people. Java applications that run on unabridged Java run-time clients will not be subject to Sun royalties, but clean-room implementations or other Java tuning to specific platforms will prompt fees back to Sun.
Until now, Sun charged a large fee to become a Java licensee, so it was mostly closed to all but large software vendors. Now, Sun is giving it away, opening the process of standards creation, and trying to recoup revenue from the development of Java derivatives.
"(Fees will apply) only if you took the source code and for your own reasons were to modify it and produce a special version of Java for use throughout a corporation to run your business," said Jim Mitchell, vice president of technology and architecture for Sun's Java Software division.
Uses such as in new devices, wireless hand sets, and vertical niche markets are some areas where Sun royalties would affect corporate developers, said Mitchell.
"One of the biggest things is that the academic and research community has access to the code to improve it," said Anne Thomas, an analyst at the Patricia Seybold Group, in Boston.
Another analyst said she doubts that Sun will make much money from Java royalties in corporations for quite some time.
"They really want to get Java out everywhere. The underlying dream is that the more it's out there... Solaris would be the ideal platform to do Java development on," said Sally Cusack, an analyst at IDC.
The novelty of getting access to source code, however, greatly appeals to many developers.
"It's a good thing. There are a lot of people who will enjoy signing the agreement and getting the source code," said Mark Watson, a Java programmer, consultant, and author in Sedona, Arizona. "But for almost everything I write, it won't affect me much at all."
Also this month, Sun added some details for the emergence of the Enterprise JavaBeans (EJB) specification for application server vendors and developers.
Sun plans to deliver a fix release to EJB 1.0, code-named Mosconi, in late winter or early spring. The update will add reference materials for code snippet compiles, Extensible Markup Language, support for the data finder, and other improvements.
That will be followed by EJB 1.1, code-named Javitz, in late spring, with adapter modules for allowing EJBs to communicate with other legacy and middleware systems.
Lastly, will be the arrival of EJB 2.0, code-named Milano, by the end of 1999, with full support for entity beans and definitions for container-managed persistence.
Sun Microsystems Inc., in Mountain View, California, can be reached at http://www.sun.com/.