Open Java changes Everything

by Paul Browne

Now that the dust is beginning to settle on Sun's Decision to open source Java , what does it actually mean for you? That's you as in a Business user, you as in a Java Developer , and you as a member of the wider IT Community?

  • In the short run (i.e. next 6 months), once the buzz dies down , not much. Remember that it took several years after the Netscape code was open source for Firefox to emerge and change the dynamic of the browser market.

  • In the medium term (between 6 and 24 months) expect some interesting packagings of Java to emerge, similar to the way the various Linux Distros work today. Consider these 'green shoots' or prototypes with interesting ideas. A 'small footprint' version of Java targeted at Applet developers seems to be one popular opinion of what might emerge. However, unless you are 'bleeding edge' or in a niche area the chances are you won't notice them at this stage.

It is in the longer term (2 years plus) that open source java really makes it's mark. Some predictions that you can quote back to me later:

- In the same way as JBoss and Geronimo have commoditised the app server market programming languages and runtimes will become a commodity. Expect the .Net platform to be opened (not just standardized) in some limited form.

- Java will become more like .Net with multiple languages running in the standard JVM. We have JRuby and Groovy. It wouldn't be too hard to add C# to this list. Visual Basic in the JVM (the Sun Semplice Project) is already on it's way.

- Oracle , IBM , SAP and others already committed to the Java market will become focussed on Java as an even bigger part of the core strategy. Just like the app server market, each will seek to differentiate themselves, perhaps by Service (IBM), by a core database (Oracle) or by leading a niche (SAP). Expect tension between the desire to differentiate (and fragment) and the GPL which seeks to 'bind them all'.

- Apache Harmony , a clean room implementation of Java will continue to gain momentum. It will get picked up by a major vendor in a similar manner to Apple using BSD code.

- Microsoft .Net will end up in a 'death march' with Java trying to gain a lead in a feature set. Open source is very good a mimicing existing products (as it makes an easy spec for dispersed developers to write on - just look at Open Office), so (unless software patents get thrown into the mix), it's hard to see .Net getting a fundamental and lasting edge over the Java Ecosystem.

More in Technology in Plain English

Update: I'm not saying that .Net is going to go away (nor should it), just that both it and Java are going to be around for a long time to come. Joe and John also have more commentary.


2006-11-24 11:15:38
java really makes it's mark -->
java really makes its mark
2006-11-24 11:16:19
already on it's way -->
already on its way
2006-11-24 22:11:10
you can't simply compare the Netscape experience with open source Java, unless the open source community expects to rewrite Java completely. the community threw away the (ugly?) Netscape code, hence it really took a long time before they came up with production-quality code.

i think open source Java will make Java use in the open source community skyrocket, and we'll see more things like Ruby on Rails sprout up for Java...not necessarily the web framework, but the ideas/concepts about simplicity and getting things done compared to the current situation in Java where things tend to get overengineered (early EJB for instance) because of standards.

2006-11-25 04:00:44
Other languages for the JVM is attractive, especially if this extends to the applet space.

Lisp I hope

2006-11-25 10:45:14
Would someone please develop a Java grammar checker? Thanks trevor for corrections.
Jim Fenner
2006-11-25 14:01:19
Re "just look at Open Office" - Open Office is NOT a product of the open source community, Sun bought it from Germany for $75 million and has spent millions more improving it. Open source community contributions since then have failed to transform OOO into anything better than what it always has been, an awkward piece of utter ****.
Booster articles such as yours suggesting it is a complete offering mislead their readers and ultimately do the Open Source movement a disservice. If OOO really is the best Open Source can do, no-one with actual work to do, deadlines and budgets could ever consider an Open Source product.
If you want a 3-gear overweight bicycle that clanks and rattles, download Open Office. Gee, where are the lights and brakes?
If you want a BMW 700-series, buy Microsoft Office, and benefit from the billions and billions MS has invested in that suite.
Much as I love Java I have to confess it is no BMW either.
Paul Browne
2006-11-25 14:14:47
Java may be more like Open Office than you realise - both were commercially developed products which where then open sourced for business reasons.

Open Office is mentioned to illustrate that one of the easiest specs to follow is 'copy that' - even the early versions of Linux were a feature for feature implementation of the various Unix around at the the time.

Yes there will be much innovation, but there will also be a lot of 'I saw something good elsewhere ... lets have it in Java'.

2006-11-26 03:27:16

I think your comparison is a bit apples to oranges. Saying that Sun failed w/ OpenOffice is not the same as the context that open sourcing java will end up the same way. Sun has notoriously been unable to make money off their best baby(java)...they don't have the top IDE, top app server...and they are definitely not a top seller of java consulting services. OpenOffice could more be conceivably seen as Sun's failure, not Java. Now some might complain that Java 'clanks' a bit as you said...but Sun's open sourcing will mean that Sun won't have the last say in forcing it down a bad path as it's done w/ OpenOffice.

2006-11-27 10:11:34
A few corrections to make sure that some statements here are not left closed.
OpenOffice is not a failure, I am using it instead of $400 MS Office and I am vary happy with it.
On the other hand BMW is really piece of utter ****. I have been fixing it year after year.
When it comes to choosing technology practicality is more important, yet a lot of times people choose glamour.
Denis Robert
2006-11-28 06:38:35
My 2cents:

1. Immediate impact of Java GPL'ed: It will in the near future displace Mono on Linux. Mono is clunky and buggy; the only reason it survived was because Java was not open source. Obstacle removed...

2. .NET doesn't really stand a chance in the long term; there's a strong movement in the .NET community towards the porting of significant Java projects (Ant, Spring, Hibernate), which is starting to displace Microsoft's chosen techniques and technologies. But then, who wants to use a port, when you can use the original?

3. "Open source is very good a mimicing existing products". WHAT??? Sounds like the old canard about the Japanese being incapable of innovation. Look at 2) above to see that in the software development space, almost ALL the true innovations in the last few years have come from the open source community (AOP, IoC, useable ORM, etc...). On the software side, I don't know if you're aware of this, but both the web server and the web browser were developed by the open source community, only to be appropriated by commercial entities later on. This is also true of almost all other internet technologies, including email and DNS. If anything, you should be saying that Microsoft is very good at mimicking existing products (IE, Exchange, SQL Server, Windows, IIS, IAA, all are copies of existing products).

I can see .NET surviving ONLY because of the sheer clout of Microsoft. As Microsoft's footprint in the IT world diminishes (as it will, slowly but surely), .NET's influence is likely to dwindle. .NET will suffer the fate of Rexx, which was too intimately tied in to OS/2 to survive its demise.

Denis Robert
2006-11-28 06:43:10
Also: Languages other than Java have been available for the JVM for years, actually way before .NET ever came out. Check out:

and notice that the page first went up in 1996!!

2006-11-28 23:55:50
"It wouldn't be too hard to add C# to this list"

Actually, a reasonably complete, usable C# compiler with a JVM backend is pretty much impossible; key differences between C# and Java include unsafe, multidimensional arrays, pinvoke, value classes, and generics involving primitive types, and the JVM simply doesn't support those (some can be sort-of emulated, but with big performance penalties that make it impractical).

I think you're more likely to see the open sourced Java environment being retargeted to a CLR backend, both using IKVM and Java-to-CLR compilers.

Paul Browne
2006-11-29 13:47:07

Thanks for the in-depth post. You're correct that it would take a lot of work to enable the JVM to have the C# language features you mention. But if the JVM is open source, and the community values some / all of the features highly enough many hands will make light work ...

Paul , Technology in Plain English

2006-12-07 08:18:13
This is an interesting vision. Having started few Open Source projects myself and saw how a idea can be improved and make a Open reliable product. I strongly believe that Java as an Open Source will go to the next level. I don't see anything changing in the next year.
However, we will start seeing some interesting changes in the next 2 to 3 years.
The changes I foresee are:
- The support of multiple languages such as C#.
- System Level programming such as binding thread to specific CPU
- Support of file virtualization

I'm .Net MCSD certified. Comparing J2EE to .Net is really like comparing the Mainframe of green screens to the current development environments. .Net is in the market because of millions of dollars of marketing from Microsoft and it's not going to change much.
The change may come if JVM will support C#. In this case, we will see more decline in the use of .Net as platform. As the developers will start using the rich JVM compatible Open Source tools.
In the J2EE front, there might simplifications that may take place and will influence the SUN's specs into more simplicity.


2007-08-08 09:33:58
i lost java from my computer , need to reload it asap.
2008-04-11 11:03:24
why dont you have better information on java like pictuers of java cup
2008-04-11 11:03:30
why dont you have better information on java like pictuers of java cup