What’s Sun’s interest in OpenJDK?
July 16, 2007 3 Comments
In response to a comment on one of my previous posts, I’d like to elaborate and speculate on this question a little.
I agree that Sun’s first interest is money. Sure, they can tell us they are doing it for idealistic reasons, or practical reasons, but you know, it’s a shareholder company and shareholder companies are bound to be after the money as their first interest. No arguing about that. However, I don’t think that Sun is only doing all this as marketing move to get some hype. This would be very short-sighted and narrow-minded.
So you might ask, we are living in a free market, and everybody’s playing against each other, where’s the money for Sun in opening up Solaris, Netbeans and Java’s code, effectively giving all the competitors an advantage, and even effectively giving them their millions of work-hours (== money) that they put in these products, if it’s not the marketing hype that follows the announcements? Well, Simon Phipps explained this nicely at FOSDEM, I can’t repeat his words so I’ll try it with my own.
Let’s take for example aicas, a small company producing a realtime capable VM (the one I’m working for). In the past, we were building around GNU Classpath as a class library for the VM, and will continue to use it for a couple of packages. You’d think that it is kindof stupid for Sun to open up their code, so that competitors like us can leverage their work and manpower and code into our own VM (Sun also has an embedded – maybe even realtime, dunno – track of their own VM). But have a look at the big picture. This move effectively helps to join forces. Sun is practically helping many small companies and VM vendors by opening up their complete Java stack. These many small vendors in turn are then able to move forward with their specific technology, instead of reimplementing the wheel again and again. It creates a level playing ground for all of them. This has the seemingly paradox effect that it stimulates competition at a completely different (and IMO more fair) level, and that on the other hand all these parties can join forces in drive Java itself forward, possibly breaking new ground for Java, which Sun alone wouldn’t be able (and has no interest in) to do (like, for example, realtime applications). This of course helps everybody involved.
This is of course very visionary and nobody really knows how it can and will work out. But in order to even have a chance to play out well, it is vitally important that Sun not only takes this as a marketing action, because it would then miss all the important advantages that this move could have. It is really important that Sun manages to create a healthy community, that it works together with the community rather than only publishing some code drops now and then (like it seems to happen in another popular free JDK project). Then, and only then, everybody can benefit. This is the reason why I’m complaining, not because I’m a Linux zealot GPL whining hippie 😉