Sun Makes Moves to Quell Unrest Over Java

AMID RUMORS of insurgency, Sun Microsystems Inc. last week invited many key customers and licensees -- including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BEA, Oracle, Novell, and Apple -- to its headquarters for a frank discussion on the state of Java and how the Java Community Process (JCP) and Java licensing agreements should evolve.

The meeting came as rumblings mount from Java licensees -- particularly IBM -- over Sun's decision late last year not to pass development of Java to the European Computer Manufacturers' Association. Sun opted instead to have that work carried out through the JCP.

That decision led to rumors of secretive talks between IBM and HP, and the strangest of Java bedfellows, Microsoft, with the companies apparently pondering a split from Sun to create a Java implementation separate from that coming out of the JCP.

Although a Sun spokesperson said last week's meeting was not in direct response to those reports -- Sun officials say they regularly host such discussions with partners and customers -- company officials admitted there is a slightly more urgent tone this time around.

"We have these meetings all the time, but this will be one where the topic is obviously of huge importance," a Sun spokesperson said. "There clearly are threats right now, and we certainly hear those loud and clear, and our customers hear them loud and clear, and that's why we need to sit down, put the posturing aside, and have a good discussion about where we need to go from here."

A source familiar with IBM's Java stance claims that Big Blue has never taken part in the secret talks being reported, and that the company is, in fact, attempting to iron out its disagreements with Sun.

"There's no truth to [the rumors of a separatist group including IBM and Microsoft] whatsoever," the source said. "IBM is still committed to Java, has invested a lot in Java, and isn't going to resolve any issue without first hearing what the other party has to say."

A second source close to IBM noted that, despite its complaints, the company remains committed to implementing the core Java APIs, and to supporting the Apache-led Jakarta reference implementations of the Java Servlet 2.2 and JavaServer Pages 1.1 Specifications.

The source said that although IBM is a staunch supporter of coordinated, cross-vendor Java technology efforts, the largest of the Java community members remains less than enthusiastic about the prospect of paying for branding, thus leaving the door open to continued political positioning.

Fortunately for Sun, one observer said, they may have an emissary in George Paolini, vice president of Java Community Development, who can handle the situation.

"George is, and always has been, a good diplomat," said the observer, who is familiar with the meeting plans. "I'm sure he'll try his best to hold the Java community together."

IBM Corp., in Armonk, N.Y., is at www.ibm.com. Sun Microsystems Inc., in Palo Alto, Calif., is at www.sun.com.

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