Blogger: Anne Thomas Manes
By now, no doubt, you've heard the rumor that IBM is contemplating a Sun acquisition. My colleagues that cover data center strategies have written about the implications of such a move on the server market. Here, I'll talk about the implications on Java.
Although IBM has been investing in other languages (especially PHP in WebSphere sMash), Java still remains at the center of the WebSphere universe. I have no doubt that IBM would love to take responsibility for the Java platforms.
And I suspect the rest of the Java community wouldn't mind it, either. Sun has been a proprietary proprieter of the Java platform. The Java Community Process (JCP) is supposed to be an open governance body, but Sun maintains special rights to the process. After many years, Sun finally released an open source implementation of Java SE 6, but at the same time imposed IP rights restrictions in the license for the Java SE Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs) that limit the way someone might use other open source implementations (e.g., Apache Harmony).
If past experience can be used as a forward indicator, IBM would be a more open proprietor of the Java platform. When IBM created Eclipse.org, it relinquished full control to the Eclipse Foundation. IBM now has no more influence on Eclipse than any other Foundation member. If IBM does acquire Sun, let's hope they adopt a similar open model for Java.