Sun gets crucial ISO thumbs-up for Java

Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft division has received permission from members of the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to steer the Java programming language through the process of becoming an ISO-sanctioned standard. Sun can now move ahead and submit the Java Language, the Java Virtual Machine, and the Java class library specifications for ISO approval as an internationally recognised standard. The announcement caps eight months of intense lobbying by Sun among the 24 ISO members Twenty countries voted in favor of Sun, while only the US and China voted against the application.

Sun Microsystems' JavaSoft division has received permission from the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to steer the Java programming language through the process of becoming an ISO-sanctioned standard.

Gaining a majority of votes from ISO members to become a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) submitter for Java, Sun can now move ahead and submit the Java Language, the Java Virtual Machine, and the Java class library specifications for ISO approval as an internationally recognised standard.

The announcement caps eight months of intense lobbying by Sun among the 24 ISO members, which after two rounds of voting accepted Sun's bid to become a PAS. Twenty countries voted in favor of Sun, while only the US and China voted against the application.

JavaSoft officials called the outcome of the vote "a major vote of confidence by the industry" for Java and the process by which it has evolved so far. The process starts with experts writing a draft specification that is then reviewed by Java licensees and subsequently offered for public review on the World Wide Web, officials said.

JavaSoft's president Alan Baratz vowed to keep the same process intact saying it would remain an "open process" focused on maintaining Java's strength of write once, run anywhere.

"[It is] better to keep the standard open and compete on the implementation of it," Baratz said in a teleconference with journalists.

Sun officials were not able to say exactly when the company will launch the process of standardising Java through ISO. Sun has to negotiate with ISO about procedural issues first and transpose the large volumes of Java specifications into ISO required formats, which will take some time, officials said.

After Sun submits Java to ISO for consideration, the specification will again go through two rounds of voting by member states under typical ISO procedures, Mitchell said.

It is the first time that a for-profit company has obtained PAS status, which according to JavaSoft's vice president of technology and architecture Jim Mitchell is why Sun's application stirred so much controversy during the voting process.

A PAS, in charge of maintaining a specification, submits the specification for consideration as an ISO standard and submits revisions to the standard as it evolves.

Sun has maintained that making Java an ISO-sanctioned standard will make the language and products built on it more attractive to buyers in the governmental and academic sector, which are required under procurement procedures to buy ISO approved products.

While Switzerland and Italy abstained from the vote and Russia submitted its vote too late to be counted, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, and the UK all voted in favor of granting Sun PAS status.

Asked if Sun expects to run into problems during the standardisation process considering that the US, the world's largest software market, has voted against Sun's PAS application, Baratz said the US's "no" vote was actually close to being a "yes" vote.

"Two voted no, twenty voted yes," Baratz said. "That's the way to look at it. Instead of dwelling on two countries that voted no you should be dwelling on the 90% that voted yes."

JavaSoft, a division of Sun Microsystems Inc., in Mountain View, California, can be reached at http://www.javasoft.com/.

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