Last week at JavaOne in San Francisco, IBM re-upped its Java commitment, renewing its Java license with Sun Microsystems for another ten years. Although IBM and Sun sometimes clash on implementation issues, the pledge to further commitment was to be expected, given IBM's extensive use of Java to create the WebSphere platform.
Much of the Java squabbling between Sun and IBM has centered on the operations of the Java Community Process (JCP). Although Sun has edged toward open sourcing of Java, it has not exactly moved in the way IBM would want. The Java license that IBM holds could be an ace in the hole for its newly acquired low-end Gluecode Java application server, if Sun ever decides to play legal hardball with a slew of similarly open-source-oriented Java servers. Note that JBoss, the firm backing the most competitive "open source" Java server, has signed a licensing agreement with Sun as well.
The IBM-originated Eclipse IDE and application development framework – now in the realm of open source – remains a key differentiation point for the Java strategies of Sun and IBM. Sun continues to stick with its own NetBeans component development architecture. At the same time, the Eclipse Foundation announced upgrades to its various projects, including new refactoring and generics tools and wizards to support J2SE 5.0.
If nothing else, this year's JavaOne does re-affirm Java as a vibrant platform, although few would claim Sun much resembles a software company. But Sun's shepherding of Java should not be too faulted, say observers like analyst Steve Garone.
"Years ago the industry was clamoring for a more open Java. People said it gave Sun an advantage," said Garone, VP for applications and integration infrastructure at analyst firm Ideas International.
"But look at the evidence," he said. "There were and are quite a lot people building products based on Java. Sun has, in fact, achieved a nice balance between openness and compatibility." He noted that Java, in particular, has avoided the kind of splintered experience that Unix encountered.