Java goes into second round of voting for ISO standard

The war of words continues between Sun and Microsoft over Sun's move to have the Java specification approved as an ISO standard. Sun had applied under a new process from ISO known as PAS (publicly available specification), but in a first round of voting by standards bodies the application was rejected, mainly because of concerns about Sun continuing to hold Java-related trademarks and the rights to maintenance and development in a way that respondents felt did not cater for sufficient openness.

The war of words continues between Sun and Microsoft over Sun’s move to have the Java specification approved as an ISO standard.

Sun had applied under a new process from ISO known as PAS (publicly available specification), but in a first round of voting by standards bodies the application was rejected, mainly because of concerns about Sun continuing to hold Java-related trademarks and the rights to maintenance and development in a way that respondents felt did not cater for sufficient openness.

Contrary to most of the respondents, Standards New Zealand voted “yes” with comments.

Sun has now responded to the concerns expressed, and the results of a second round of voting are expected in about five weeks.

In its amendment it says it is willing to negotiate patent licences under “reasonable and non-discriminatory terms”, that its copyright terms will comply with ISO/IEC policy, as applied to ethernet and ANSI, and that it is retaining all of its Java-related trademarks.

“If Sun is approved as a PAS submitter, we will submit the Java langauge, the Java bytecodes and Java class file format [the Java virtual machine, for example] and the core Java APIs to the transposition process as soon as possible,” it says.

“Any additional Java specifications will be submitted as amendments that must be approved by JTC1. This will give member bodies the right to vote on all such additions.”

Earlier this month, a Microsoft-sponsored open letter urged Sun to let ISO or another international standards body take control of the maintenance and evolution of Java, and said the name “Java” should be associated with the standard and that implementers who conform to the standard should be free to use it.

Sun came out fighting at a press conference in Palo Alto on September 21.

“All of this openness threatens Microsoft, which has retreated to a cloak of closed, proprietary software for protection,” said Alan Baratz, president of Sun’s JavaSoft division.

“Every single thing Microsoft says and does is designed to preserve its monopoly. Despite Microsoft’s efforts to derail Java, support and industry momentum remains strong.

“Regardless of whether Sun’s ISO application is accepted or rejected, we will continue to lead the industry in the evolution of the Java platform.”

A typical response to the original PAS submission is exemplified by the US standards body, which commented under “maintenance”: “The US National Body believes that responsibilities for maintenance and enhancements should rest with JTC 1 and not with the PAS submitter in cases where the PAS submitter is not a consensus-based standards body.”

Sun’s concerns rest largely with Microsoft supporting Java as a programming language but not as a platform that may supplant the underlying operating system.

Reflecting that concern, a 3000-strong group of Java programmers and users who have dubbed themselves the Java Lobby have posted an open letter to Bill Gates expressing their concerns about Micro-soft’s Java strategy. The group is particularly distressed about Internet Explorer 4.0, which they says isn’t fully compatible with the Java version 1.1 core platform and violates the “write once, run anywhere” spirit of Java. Programmers will have to code one way for Windows and another way for other platforms.

Group founder Rick Ross says that by making its Java implementation non-standard, Microsoft stands in the way of truly networked computing.

“Network programming is one of the core requirements for the enterprise to be able to have workflow management systems and for the other advantages of computing technology in the workplace to be leveraged,” he says. “Moreover, it’s only the front end of computing systems. There may be minicomputers or mainframes on the back end, and Java can be scalable to all of them. Windows can never do that.”

According to Baratz: “The ISO certification can be a means to validate our business model and to provide an independent review board for our specifications. It can also be effective in some instances for governments and businesses who require de jure standards. “

It may be that Sun doesn’t achieve de jure for Java but the overall momentum is such that Java is rapidly becoming a de facto standard.

New Zealand vendors and users want Java as a standard, says Standards New Zealand chief executive Kaye McAulay.

She says there was wide consultation of vendors and professional users before the first “yes” submission with comments but a certain amount of confusion over what it all meant. “ITANZ wanted it to be ‘yes with comments’ but vendors who are from ITANZ voted differently.”

McAulay says next time around it might be necessary to call a meeting involving everyone, rather than have a separate vendors’ meeting. She expects the meeting to be held in about a month.

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