Java Expo: Zander unveils Java revamp

Sun Microsystems has sought to revitalise its Java platform and programming language with two key announcements at the Java Business Expo. Sun's Ed Zander announced Java 2, a 'complete rewrite of the Java platform' known as JDK 1.2 in development, and a move towards an open source development model that had been urged by both small developers and giants like Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

Kicking off the Java Business Expo yesterday, Sun Microsystems Chief Operating Officer Ed Zander announced Java 2, an overhaul of the platform and programming language, as well as initiatives to open up the language's development process to a broader array of developers and users.

Zander announced a new licensing model that expands the ways that different types of users and developers can participate in the development of the Java platform.

Even some of Java's big backers and users, like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, have pushed Sun toward adopting more of an open source development model, in which the creator of a technology opens up the bug fixing and development process to the developer community at large.

"We're combining the best of both worlds ... open source with assuring compatibility for Java applications," Zander said.

The new licensing model is based on a set of principles outlined by Sun in its Community Source License, released yesterday. The new license model, according to Sun, is designed to permit easier access to source code, increased and more rapid innovation, and faster commercialisation of products based on the Java platform.

The Community Source License, and related initiatives, include the following:

-- The ability for Java licensees that are commercial entities to use or modify source code without intervention or charge from Sun. Businesses also can make innovations to the source code without turning over the innovation to Sun.

-- Licensees can package for resale Sun's Java platform class libraries with virtual machines from other licensees.

-- Sun will charge businesses that modify the source code and create derivative products for it only for either production use within their organisations or for commercial distribution. Also, Sun will charge service organisations that use the source code as the basis for a commercial support or consulting contract.

"We won't make a dime until you do," Zander said at a question and answer session after his keynote speech.

Zander also stressed that Sun is allowing a broader participation in the Java API development process, opening it up to industry experts, standards bodies, and researchers.

"Before only licensees participated ... now, non-commercial bodies like standards organisations can participate," Zander said.

In addition, commercial developers will now head groups chartered with tuning the Java platform for specific uses, for example, IBM will head a group working on specifications for real-time Java, Zander said. Another group currently under way is being led by Xilinx for the development of an API for the market for boundary scanning -- the process of finding logical breaks in unparsed data sets.

Sun will allow these third-party companies to lead development initiatives as long as they commit to following Sun's published API specification process, according to the company. All API specification groups, led either by Sun or third parties, will be audited by PriceWaterhouse Coopers to provide assurance that the process is being properly implemented, according to Zander.

Zander acknowledged that Sun has been under pressure to adopt a more open source development model for Java. But he also defended Sun's management of the programming platform.

"I don't want to sound defensive, but I don't think we'd be where we are now," if Sun hadn't steered the development process the way it has for the last three years, Zander said. He also blasted Microsoft and HP, which he said have not participated wholeheartedly in attempts to ensure the cross-platform compatibility of Java.

"Listening to Microsoft and listening to HP is hard for me," said Zander. But he welcomed Microsoft "back into the fold," noting that the company is following a court order, in the lawsuit filed by Sun in a U.S. district court, to make changes to its products so that they include an implementation of Java that will pass Sun's Java compatibility test suite.

As for HP, which is leading a group -- not approved of by Sun -- of more than 20 companies working on real-time specifications for Java, Zander said: "I don't know what ... their agenda is."

Java 2, code-named Java Development Kit 1.2 while under development, is a "complete rewrite of the Java platform," Zander said. The new version of the JDK will be officially announced at an event in New York tonight. But in his keynote, Zander took time to list the salient features of Java 2 and related technology.

These include faster runtime, improved garbage collection, new class libraries, and an improved security model. In addition, enhanced localization of Java 2 means the technology is "world-ready," Zander said.

But mainly, Zander stressed that with Java 2 and a new series of related APIs, (application programming interface) Java is now ready to be an applications development and deployment platform for industry strength applications.

"We pounded the heck out of this thing in terms of stability," Zander said.

The Java 2 platform is available for immediate download at http://java.sun.com/products/jdk.

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