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Apache loses Java showdown vote to Oracle

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Exclusive The Apache Software Foundation – one of tech's most influential open-source groups – is closer to quitting Java's governing body after losing a stand-off vote against Oracle on Java.

The Reg has learned that with 75 per cent of qualifying Java Community Process (JCP) members having voted on whether to ratify Oracle's proposed roadmap for Java 7 and 8, Oracle's plan has been accepted.

The Reg understands that only ASF and Google voted against Oracle's roadmap, despite the ASF last month calling on fellow JCPers to vote against Java 7 and 8.

Polls were set to close on Monday, but The Reg got a tip off on the state of voting just before the final ballots were the due to be counted and the results made public by the JCP.

According to our source, Apache and Google have qualified their "no" votes, saying the decision was not based on the technical merits of Oracle's plan. They say they objected to field-of-use and licensing restrictions imposed by Oracle.

Despite losing, ASF and Google are not isolated on the JCP. The Reg has learned that those voting "yes" to Java 7 and 8 did side with Google and the ASF in saying that their vote was based on the technical merits of the Oracle roadmap. They too objected to the field of use and license restrictions imposed by Oracle. One individual member had abstained. Those voting are on the Java Standard Edition/Enterprise Edition executive committee.

The stumbling point is Project Harmony, from the ASF.

Oracle has refused point blank, and without explanation, to grant Harmony a license to use the Java Test Compatibility Kit (TCK). That means ASF cannot have Harmony, an independent implementation of Java SE, tested for compatibility with the official standard.

Google's Android mobile operating system uses a subset of Harmony in its Dalvik Java Virtual Machine. Oracle is suing Google over alleged violations of its Java patents in Android.

ASF has been a JCP member for 10 years, and it's home to a number of leading and popular open-source Java projects. The group has argued bluntly that Oracle is not living up to the governing principle of the JCP by failing to grant Harmony a license.

In an ultimatum here and bluntly repeated here, the ASF told Oracle: "The ASF will terminate its relationship with the JCP if our rights as implementers of Java specifications are not upheld by the JCP Executive Committee to the limits of the EC's ability."

ASF president Jim Jagielski told The Reg in October that if it lost the vote on Java 7, the group would face a "a tough decision" on whether to continue to fight over freedom of use and licensing restrictions.

Asked to comment on the JCP result on Monday, Jagielski said he could not comment until the results are made public.

But he added: "The ASF does not make false or misleading statements. We clearly stated that we (the ASF) 'will terminate its relationship with the JCP' if our rights are not upheld. We hold to that statement."

Should the ASF walk away, this be the first ever such exit from Java's governing group, and Oracle and the JCP will lose a major claim to represent the interests of all those involved in Java's development and direction.

At a deeper level, a walk-out will perpetuate talk of Java fragmentation, and Oracle - despite its talk of community and of moving on - will be seen as pushing a roadmap that serves Oracle's interests more than those of anybody else.

To that end, Oracle tried to outmaneuver ASF by signing IBM and Apple to OpenJDK, the formerly Sun-backed alternative to Harmony. This, along with Oracle's refusal to grant Harmony a license, shows Oracle's unwilling to let Java SE run on mobile and only wants Java ME on cell phones and other devices.

The ASF's run in with Oracle is a continuation of a fight that started three years ago over field-of-use restrictions and licensing of the TCKs under Sun Microsystems.

Back then, Oracle supported the ASF. Now it has inherited Sun's position of leadership over the JCP, the company and individuals who'd supported ASF have conveniently U-turned. ®

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