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IBM made a public show of its love for all things Java on Wednesday, following an agreement to renew its Java license with Sun Microsystems for the next 10 years.

One of the sticking points in the relationship between IBM and Sun has been Sun's continued power to control Java through the Java Community Process (JCP). That has lead IBM to form alternative industry groups, such as the Eclipse, in opposition to Sun and the JCP. Eclipse started life building a framework for Java tools but has since morphed in scope and attracted more than 100 members. Only one major Java platform provider today remains a non-member of Eclipse - Sun.

On Monday, Sun's president and chief operating officer Jonathan Schwartz - announcing IBM's renewed license, said: "We had a bit of a chill in our relationship with IBM."

Speaking on Wednesday, Robert LeBlanc, IBM WebSphere general manager, LeBlanc concurred: "We have had our little differences [with Sun] in terms of the process." He added, though, IBM would "continue to participate and drive [changes] through the community"

LeBlanc said it was important to work through the community to drive changes that take Java beyond the data center into newer areas like mobile phones, where technical hurdles remain to be overcome. Working through the community is important, because this would help maintain compatibility, LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc's words, and IBM's new license, probably owe more to necessity than goodwill as much of IBM's software business relies on Java. WebSphere is IBM's core brand for Java, with IBM investing $1bn on an annual basis. Elements of WebSphere are also now moving into IBM's Tivoli, Rational, Lotus and Workplace products.

"We are as dependent on Java being a success as any other single vendor in the industry," said LeBlanc. ®

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