Sun and IBM mend Java fences

Sun Microsystems and IBM last week called a truce to their high-profile licensing dispute over the latest enterprise Java specification, Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE), but continuing calls for standardisation and open-source Java initiatives are increasing the pressure on Sun to loosen its grip on the popular development language and platform.

"IBM is now a Java licensee," said Gina Centoni, Sun's director of Java marketing, although she declined to distinguish between the J2EE licence and IBM's existing, overarching Java licence.

With the truce between the two largest backers of Java, it appears that the political turmoil around Java may be subsiding. But regardless of the specific licensing terms, IBM still wants Java to be submitted to the standards bodies.

"Clearly it is open standards where our customers are going to prosper -- where these technologies are going to prosper -- so we think Java would prosper if it was managed as part of a more open process," said Scott Hebner, director of IBM's e-business marketing.

At least one analyst said Sun's mishandling in standardising Java is slowing market adoption and making way for other languages, notably Microsoft's new C# language, which has drawn comparisons to Java.

In a report issued this week, Giga Information Systems came down on the side of IBM, saying that Sun appears to be splitting hairs over the term "licensee." Sun, for its part, points to its recent increase in third-party influence within the Java Community Process (JCP), a conglomeration of companies that oversees and tracks enhancements to Java.

"The value proposition of Java is compatibility," Sun's Centoni said. "By licensing it and being able to certify users, we preserve that value."

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