BEA favors making Java open source

BEA Systems on Wednesday cast its vote in favor of Sun Microsystems making parts of its Java technology open source, ratcheting the debate up a notch.

"We'd like to go on the record publicly in favor of open-sourcing J2SE, and we've been working behind the scenes on this," said Scott Dietzen, BEA's chief technology officer, during a speech at the JavaOne show in San Francisco Wednesday evening.

J2SE, or Java 2 Standard Edition, is considered the desktop version of Java, although many vendors also base their Java application servers on it. J2SE version 5, codenamed Project Tiger, was announced here this week.

Making Java open source would lead to more innovation around the Java language and fits with the business models of Java vendors, who in any case don't profit from core components like the Java virtual machine, Dietzen said. At the same time, he said, compatibility can't be relaxed.

"Allow everyone to innovate freely, but if you want to ship with the Java brand you've got to be compatible. That way you as developers know you'll be working with compatible Java code," Dietzen said. He also called for more openness in compatibility testing kits.

IBM Corp. sparked the furor over open-source Java in February when it urged Sun to make the move in a public letter. IBM argued that it would help to expand Java's reach and boost innovation. Sun has said it is open to the idea but has yet to decided either way. It too is worried about forking, and says the move would be complex.

A panel will discuss the matter at JavaOne Thursday, with top engineers from Sun and IBM joined by Stanford University Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, IT publisher Tim O'Reilly and others.

Dietzen's comments sparked applause from attendees in the auditorium, although some developers here have said it makes little difference to them if Java becomes open source or not.

BEA, along with IBM, makes one of the two most widely used Java application servers.

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