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Open Source Wave Builds: Sun Offers Java To Global Developers

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RALEIGH, N.C. — After years of internal debate,

Sun Microsystems

said Monday that it was moving into the open source software world in a big way.

Sun has decided to release its Java desktop and mobile software for development under the “General Public License,” thus opening up its proprietary code. Sun’s Java language has been especially popular for mobile devices, with eight of the top 10 phones in 2005 coming with Java language, according to statistics compiled by the analytical firm Ovum.

The Sun announcement was the third in a month involving major firms ranging from Oracle to Microsoft moving to embrace the open source movement.

Sun’s top executive called his company’s move part of a rising open source tide that “lifts all boats.” More than 3.8 billion devices have Java software, according to Sun.

“And now that Java's established itself beyond a doubt, it's time to take the next step, to utterly obliterate the barriers to entry for developers around the world seeking to build the next great device, or the next great Internet service,” wrote Jonathan Schwartz, president and chief executive officer of Sun, on his blog. “Whether in the U.S., Brazil, Poland, China, Tibet, Taiwan, Europe, Mexico -- wherever the Internet travels (to more places, at this point, than even electricity).”

Red Hat

, the Raleigh-based world’s top developer and distributor of Linux, hailed the news as a major advancement for open source development. However, IBM was not nearly as positive.

“Today, Sun announced they will be releasing Java under the GPL. This is good news,” Red Hat said in a statement on its Web site.

“Against a backdrop of several recent announcements in the open source world, what Sun has done really matters. Making Java freely available under the GPL is good for developers, good for the community and ultimately good for the customer,” Red Hat added.

Red Hat has been rocked by two other recent open software-related moves. First, Oracle announced plans to undercut Red Hat subscription service pricing. That move drove Red Hat (NASDAQ: RHAT) stock down 25 percent and triggered talk that the much-larger Oracle might buy out Red Hat.

Then bitter rivals Novell and Microsoft announced a partnership to promote SUSE Linux, with the proprietary software giant pouring millions of dollars into support for Novell.

Red Hat treated the Sun announcement much differently.

"It's a really big day in the history of open source,” said Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s executive vice president of engineering.

Brian Stevens, chief technology officer for Red Hat, added: "It's going to make Java relevant again in an open source world.”

In the statement on its Web site, Red Hat said Sun’s move meant advancement for open source in several areas:

“It allows broader development on the open source platform, previously hindered by the limitations of closed technology.

“It allows Linux to move forward on the desktop with the same rapid innovation as the server.

“It allows collaboration, building on the work of others to develop better technology faster.

“With governance, leadership, and strong technical contributions from the open source community, the move could significantly further the adoption of Linux and change the landscape of our industry,” Red Hat said.

However, the reaction from IBM was not nearly as positive, citing ongoing open source projects involving Apache operating system based servers that also utilize Java.

"In light of the Apache projects, we have discussed with Sun our strong belief that Sun should contribute their Java technologies to Apache rather than starting another open-source Java project, or at least make their contributions available under an 'Apache friendly' license to ensure the open-source Java community isn't fragmented and disenfranchised, instead Sun would be bringing the same benefits of OS (open-source) Java to this significant and growing open-source community," IBM said in a statement that was reported by Web news site Cnet.

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