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Johnson said the JCP was created in a monolithic era of computing that has passed. Software development needs have changed - and are likely to continue changing even faster. The structure of JCP must change to cope with this.

"The JCP is set up as closed committee which makes it very difficult for outside people to contribute. Although recently it has sought input from expert groups and canvassed external sources it needs to do more. I would, for example, like to see it make more use of wikis to improve collaboration," he said.

Johnson also felt the license arrangements for Java technologies could be improved as current arrangements act as a disincentive to using Java. Johnson said: "Its too legalistic and there is concern about agreements that bias things in favour of Sun. JCP could use BSD or Apache licenses for example. This would remove a lot of the issues that IBM has about contributing intellectual property."

Despite some industry criticism of Java and the emergence of alternatives, Johnson remains a strong supporter of the language. He is positive about Sun's policy of extending the Java environment to include other languages and frameworks, and expects this will lead to improvements both in Java and its support technologies.

"I think a world where Java dominates is unhealthy," Johnson said. "Broadly speaking, Sun taking a positive position on languages such as Python and Ruby is good. It is natural that these up and coming languages get the attention - but it also means that Java is getting some wake-up calls. There are some good ideas coming from these new languages and they are having an effect on Java."

But Johnson went on to say it is important to see beyond comparisons of the relative merits of Java and other programming languages. The operating environment that supports a language is as important - especially given the wide use of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

"It is not enough just to compare Java with Ruby or Python. You have to put it in the context of the JVM as a platform with 10 to 15 years of rich enterprise integration. With dynamic languages such as JRuby and Groovy, for example, you can get access to the JVM. But it is still too early to say that dynamic languages are taking over."

Sun's support of alternatives to Java is, Johnson believes, part of a grander strategy to take a lead in open source software development. "Sun is broadening its position and making an ambitious push around open source. It wants to be the dominant company. Extending language support is a part of this and so is the MySQL acquisition."®

The Register is a media sponsor of QCon London 2008.

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