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Sun releases Java 2 under Open Source-style licence

Java source available for commercial use -- just make sure you stay compatible

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Sun today made its much-anticipated move to open up its Java source code for commercial exploitation. The announcement came as the company rolled out the latest version of its platform-independent language, Java 2. Sun's new Java licence allows commercial software developers to do pretty much what they like with the Java source code. So it now allows them to "use and modify the source code for commercial sofwtare product development" and to share those modifications with other companies. All of this can take place without having to pass the rights to those modifications on to Sun, without its mediation and without having to pay it anything. The licence itself hasn't been issued under an Open Source agreement, but what Sun calls a "community source licence", which would appear to be one that adds compatibility clauses. Sun stresses compatibility throughout -- you can do with Java what you will provided you don't screw up the 'write once, run anywhere' ideal. Sun will continue to lead the development of the language and new APIs, but third parties can now create extensions to the language so long as they commit themselves to following Sun's API specification. All such work -- including Sun's own -- will now be formally audited by PriceWaterhouse Coopers for compatibility. Behind all this is Sun's desire to make Java more attractive to software developers. Opening the source code, it's hoped, will ecourage developers to extend Java to cover the needs of less mainstream markets than it those it has addressed so far. "We recognise now that work needs to be done to adapt and tune Java to make it appropriate for particular industries and different devices," said Sun's Java supremo, Alan Baratz. "Our goal has always been to foster industry participation and development of Java while preserving a unified platform. The [Open Source] model achieves that balance." Other Java technologies will also be issued under the Community Source Licence, including PersonalJava and, most notably, EmbeddedJava, which neatly defuses the brewing conflict between Sun and the Hewlett-Packard led Real Time Java Group (which, interestingly, includes Microsoft) building their own version of the language for embedded systems (see HP alliance throws down Java gauntlet to Sun). ®

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