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Java Lobby pleads case to Sun at Comdex

November 18, 1998
Web posted at: 12:30 PM EST

by David Orenstein

LAS VEGAS (IDG) -- The founder of the Java Lobby, a 22,000-member Java developers' advocacy group, called on Sun Microsystems Inc. to open development of a standard to nonlicensees and to give other companies and not-for-profit groups a say in the process.

During a panel discussion at Comdex/Fall '98 yesterday, Rick Ross said that because Sun has sole decision-making power over what advancements go in to Java, the company has too much control over the programming language. The investments that developers, companies and organizations have sunk into Java are at risk in an environment where Sun can make any decisions arbitrarily, he said.

"It simply isn't open," said Ross, who is based in New York. "I think it's time for action. I think it's time for a change."

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Ross recommended that a three-part committee be formed, made up of Sun, other Java companies and not-for-profit institutions. That body would vote on any proposed changes that Sun or others develop. The structure wouldn't add much time to the process, Ross said, but it would prevent Sun from manipulating Java to suit its own interests rather than the development community's interests.

Java licensees such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Novell Inc. have begun to openly criticize Sun's stewardship of the Java standard, claiming that Sun isn't moving fast enough and that the company competes with them for Java-related business. Sun responded last month by giving key Java licensees such as HP, IBM and Microsoft Corp. a greater voice in developing noncore specifications.

But while another panelist, John Rymer, president of Upstream Consulting Inc. in Emeryville, Calif., agreed that Sun's process has flaws, he said that adding a layer of committees to the standard-building process will slow things down. Rymer said a better model will be to let Java be forged by the free market.

"Ultimately it comes down to the market and developers voting with their dollars," Rymer said.

Bickering over Java -- and even Sun's lawsuit against Microsoft over their Java licensing agreement -- hasn't dampened interest in the language, Rymer said, but the schism between the companies does make the future fuzzy. "The battling makes it difficult to make long-term bets," he said. Developers must choose a platform and hope it wins out, he said.

Also during the panel, Scot Wingo, a vice president at Microsoft ally RogueWave Software Inc., defended Microsoft's moves to modify Java to make it specific to the Windows platform. A lot of developers are only targeting the Windows platform, he said, and shouldn't have to sacrifice performance for the sake of portability he said.

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