Open Java changes everything

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on Sun’s Decision to open source Java , what does it actually mean for you? That’s you as in a Business user, you as in a Java Developer , and you as a member of the wider IT Community?

  • In the short run (i.e. next 6 months), once the buzz dies down , not much. Remember that it took several years after the Netscape code was open source for Firefox to emerge and change the dynamic of the browser market.
  • In the medium term (between 6 and 24 months) expect some interesting packagings of Java to emerge, similar to the way the various Linux Distros work today. Consider these ‘green shoots’ or prototypes with interesting ideas. A ‘small footprint’ version of Java targeted at Applet developers seems to be one popular opinion of what might emerge. However, unless you are ‘bleeding edge’ or in a niche area the chances are you won’t notice them at this stage.

It is in the longer term (2 years plus) that open source java really makes it’s mark. Some predictions that you can quote back to me later:

– In the same way as JBoss and Geronimo have commoditised the app server market programming languages and runtimes will become a commodity. Expect the .Net platform to be opened (not just standardized) in some limited form.

– Java will become more like .Net with multiple languages running in the standard JVM. We have JRuby and Groovy. It wouldn’t be too hard to add C# to this list. Visual Basic in the JVM (the Sun Semplice Project) is already on it’s way.

– Oracle , IBM , SAP and others already committed to the Java market will become focussed on Java as an even bigger part of the core strategy. Just like the app server market, each will seek to differentiate themselves, perhaps by Service (IBM), by a core database (Oracle) or by leading a niche (SAP). Expect tension between the desire to differentiate (and fragment) and the GPL which seeks to ‘bind them all’.

Apache Harmony , a clean room implementation of Java will continue to gain momentum. It will get picked up by a major vendor in a similar manner to Apple using BSD code.

– Microsoft .Net will end up in a ‘death march’ with Java trying to gain a lead in a feature set. Open source is very good a mimicing existing products (as it makes an easy spec for dispersed developers to write on – just look at Open Office), so (unless software patents get thrown into the mix), it’s hard to see .Net getting a fundamental and lasting edge over the Java Ecosystem.

Update: I’m not saying that .Net is going to go away (nor should it), just that both it and Java are going to be around for a long time to come. Joe and John also have more commentary.


  1. The move to a GPL licence also means that the Java Runtime can now be distributed freely within Linux distributions. Now, that may not seem like a big deal, but it means that you now have a full application development stack out of the box free when you install a Linux box. An open JVM, an open application server (JBoss/Geronimo/Glassfish), and an open IDE (Netbeans/Eclipse).

    Include Groovy/Grails support and you have a stack to rival LAMP that becomes accessible to a much wider base of developers. Off the bat, I’d say that Java hosting could become a lot cheaper as a result of the new demand.

    I’d love to see what the impact will be on the PHP and RoR communities. How do you compete for mindshare with a free, rapid, structured web development stack for the masses that you can easily deploy? This can only be a good move.

  2. Unfortunately, Suns approach and attitude to competitors on the FOSS community is really bad PR, Apache Harmony is having troubles with Sun to get access to the JCK.

    Sun’s terms and conditions in are not very interesting either. Sun is not a non-for-profit, why bother contributing?

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