Now that Java is going open source, what exactly does that mean? Developers and others worldwide say it opens up a world of possibilities.
New opportunities are presented on Linux as well as in the desktop and mobile spaces. Also, open source developers who might have shied away from Java because of its commercial implications now can jump in the pool.
Sun unveiled plans to make Java open source available under the GNU General Public License on November 13. The move "has a huge impact on the open source world," said Jeff Waugh, director of the Gnome Foundation, which is building a desktop environment for open source and Unix systems.
There has been a wall between Java and open source as far as desktop applications; the open sourcing means Java can spread on the desktop, said Waugh, in Sydney, Australia.
"Now that Java will be open source, it means it will be able to be included in any Linux distribution by default," Waugh said. "That allows us to create desktop applications in Java," and distribute them with Linux, he said.
Java now can vie with C and C++ on the desktop, Waugh said. Additionally, mobile application development becomes more Java-friendly, he said.
"Given that Sun [is] also open-sourcing Java ME (Micro Edition), that allows Gnome developers to create Java applications that can work across the desktop and embedded devices," Waugh said.
Open source Java also makes Java more competitive with Mono , which is an open source implementation of Microsoft's .Net development platform. Java becomes available to desktop developers such as Mono, Waugh said.
"It will be interesting to see the lay of the land between Java and Mono," Waugh said.
Open-source Java may even prompt the death of some projects.
"It should make the Classpath project obsolete," said Casey Marshall, a contributor to the Classpath project. Classpath is a GNU effort to write a free version of Java class libraries.
"A lot of work that I've done could be relegated to the dust bin of history," Marshall said. But Marshall is not disappointed. "I don't think that personal glory is the ultimate goal of free software," he said. The Classpath project may be able to fill in some gaps on any class libraries that Sun cannot open because it does not own them, he added.
An open source Java will bring new developers to the platform, said Dalibor Topic, a lead developer on the Kaffe project, which involves development of a free Java virtual machine.
"I think it greatly boosts the perception of Java as a managed runtime technology in circles that wouldn't have considered Java as easily," because of the "Java trap," Topic said. The Java trap has involved an issue in which distribution of free software containing Java was hindered by Java's previous licensing terms.