Sun To Tackle Real-Time Java

Sun Microsystems Inc.'s new Community Source Licensing process is being put to the test in the wake of a recent victory over a group of developers that wanted a national standards body to control forthcoming specifications for real-time Java.

Sun this week will choose a leader from among 25 companies that answered its recent call to form an open working group of developers for real-time Java, a specification for creating software that runs on embedded systems. That leader will choose group members from the 25 to make up Sun's real-time Java working group.

Two Java heavyweights in their own right, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp., will not be part of the group because neither submitted its name to Sun's "Call for Experts."

HP and Microsoft, as part of a renegade Real-Time Java Working Group, failed last month to persuade the National Committee for Information Technology Standards to accept the responsibility of developing real-time Java.

HP and the RTJWG are still at odds with Sun over the Community Source Licensing process. The group charges that even though the process is open to any developer, Sun still controls which third-party proposals are included and which company will lead the working group.

"Because their process is closed, it gives Sun and its partners a three- to six-month lead time over everybody else," said Wendy Fong, HP standards manager for embedded software, in Palo Alto, Calif.

HP will continue to push for a more open process to allow any company access to unfinished specifications for possible implementation, a common practice within independent standards bodies. Microsoft officials declined to comment.

At stake is a potentially huge market for Java-based applications running in embedded systems. A standard is critical to embedded systems developers because of the time and money invested in developing applications.

"If Sun gets a real-time Java spec out there, then HP may just have to toe the line," said Ken Black, president of Highlander Communications LLC, a real-time application developer in Lakeland, Fla.

However, Black added, "If those licensees can show that the HP VM [virtual machine] is better than the Sun VM, and HP can put some real-time features in there, then they may still have something to fight over."

Sun officials, standing by their process, disagree.

"I really believe it's all over but the shouting," said Jim Mitchell, vice president of architecture and technology for Sun's JavaSoft Division, in Cupertino, Calif., of the threat posed by the HP-led faction.

"They don't have any legitimacy now, since they lost the NCITS vote and 80 percent of the people have come to join our process," Mitchell said. "By the summer, [the specification] will be done and [the RTJWG] will be a moot point."

The first draft of the specification is expected to be completed by midyear, with the final specification due before the end of the year, he said.

The proposal failed initially, HP's Fong said, because NCITS members feared a Sun lawsuit, similar to the one Sun filed against Microsoft for changes the Redmond, Wash., company made to the Java language within its Visual J++ application development tool.

Those fears were ill-founded, Fong said, because "the extensions that we propose don't affect the language. The people who voted were confused about that."

Mitchell said Sun recognizes the competitive advantage that members of its working group have but considers it payment for the time donated in building a standard.

"It's not like [members] go to a few meetings and they get a huge amount of benefit," he said. "We go in and take some of [the companies'] best engineers that they can't afford to take off products and demand to have them at least half-time while they're doing this kind of stuff."

Community Source Licensing Process


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