Sun Microsystems is set to make significant chunks of the Java language freely available, making good on its promise in May to open the source code of the technology.
Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz will announce the availability of the code at the company's headquarters in California this week. Officials say that parts of the Java Platform Standard Edition (JSE) and Java Platform Micro Edition (JME) will be available under the same GNU General Public License used for the open-source Linux operating system and the MySQL database.
Sun says it will still offer commercial licenses for Java.
Users had mixed reactions to the move. Some say they welcomed the chance for additional scrutiny of the source code. Others worried that the open-source shift could lead to the creation of incompatible versions of Java through the process known as code forking.
Alan Flint, systems, applications and programming manager at Richmond Wholesale, a food distributor based in California, says Sun's decision may persuade his company to use the programing language for the first time. "Open source is an area I am interested in pursuing ... to have multiple options and not be locked into proprietary scenarios," he says. "Everybody in the world has to go to Microsoft because they are so pervasive, but sometimes you feel like you are painfully being forced to do something that is not in the best interest of the company."
Mayur Raichura, director of information services at The Long & Foster Companies Inc. in Virginia, says Sun's open-source move persuaded the real estate firm to evaluate Java technology. Long & Foster doesn't use Java because of its cost and complexity, he says.
"With Java available as open source, we will definitely relook at the Java option as a development platform," he says.
John Muhlner, Sun's Java ME product marketing manager, says the move to open source means developers can "influence the direction we're taking the platform".
The Java components that Sun is making available as open source are the Java Compiler and the Java HotSpot virtual machine, which makes up the Java Software Development Kit in JSE and the core implementation of JME found on most mobile handsets. Additional pieces of JSE and JME will be available under open-source licenses later this year and in the spring of 2007, Sun says.
Michael Goulde, an analyst at Forrester Research, noted that even though the code will be available as open source, Sun -- not an independent organisation -- will control Java.
"Not only will Sun still manage the open-source project ... [but] it still has control of the Java Community Process," he says. "It is not a completely vendor-neutral effort."