Sun opens up Java specification process somewhat

Responding to concerns from key Java stakeholders, Sun Microsystems is moving to revise its so-called community process for developing new Java technology.

Sun announced on Friday the formation of two executive committees that will oversee the Java Community Process (JCP) program for developing Java specifications, reference implementations and test suites. The company said the new committees, which will include representatives from Sun and other vendors, will determine which new technology proposals move forward for further development by Java working groups.

In the past, that decision-making power rested solely with Sun. More details about the upgraded JCP 2.0 program are scheduled to be unveiled at next week's JavaOne Conference in San Francisco, Sun officials said.

"We're looking for a way to give the (Java vendor) community a level of assurance that we're (going) to keep the playing field level and allow others to participate in the process," said George Paolini, a Sun vice president. He likened the new JCP setup loosely to the balance of power setup of the US government.

However, Sun will continue to maintain its role as "steward" of the technology and plans to retain ultimate "veto power" on any changes to the Java virtual machine, the programming language and major additions to the platform, Paolini said.

But for at least one major Java vendor, that's still too much control in one company's hands.

"While there have been some baby steps (toward) improving the JCP process, the bottom line is (Java) still is not an open standard," said Scott Hebner, director of e-business marketing at IBM, which has balked at licensing Sun's Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition brand.

"We believe strongly -- as originally committed (to) by Sun -- that Java ought to become an open industry standard," Hebner added. "By definition, an industry standard is not controlled by a single company."

Last year, Sun abandoned two separate efforts to standardise Java through independent bodies, the International Standards Organization and the Geneva-based ECMA (which was formerly known as the European Computer Manufacturers Association) (see story). Instead, Sun has continued to tweak its community process for developing Java specifications.

The newly appointed executive committees include representatives from 20 companies other than Sun, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Apple Computer, Compaq Computer and Oracle. For now, membership is on an interim basis, Sun said. General elections for the executive committees are slated for this fall.

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