Will Oracle and IBM Help Java Move Forward?

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 13, 2010

As concerns over Oracle's allegedly territorial behavior toward Java continue to spread, with its lawsuit aimed at Google regarding parts of the Java code used in the Android mobile OS fueling the wall of worry, Oracle's agreement to cooperate with IBM on advancing Java is drawing mixed interpretations. Are two of the biggest software titans necessarily going to proceed with the kind of open goals and focus on open standards that Sun Microsystems did?

It's interesting to note that all the way back in 2009, eWeek did a story titled "Java Developers Say Better Oracle Than IBM," which addressed the rumors that had gone around about IBM possibly acquiring Sun and becoming the steward of Java. In that story, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation told eWeek:

"Oracle's acquisition of Sun is unequivocally good for Java. Erasing uncertainty about the future of Sun as a business does the same for Java. Historically, Oracle has been a vocal supporter of a more open Java platform. Hopefully that will quickly translate into action on that front."

Sure enough, it's true that Oracle has made very clear that it doesn't intend to just let Java wallow, or die. In fact, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said early on after his company acquired Sun that Java was the crown jewel in the deal. But will two of the biggest softwar titans working together preserve openness as Java moves forward? Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC, told Computerworld:

"This is about showing that Java is still going to be invested in and that the two biggest players out there are in agreement that it must be evolved rapidly. More than that, that they are on the same page as far as the current roadmap, namely to have what was proposed initially as a single release has now become two quick releases, Java SE 7 and Java SE 8. I think it means that Oracle is very passionate about evolving Java and that they are willing to work with archrivals in good spirit to keep Java relevant and important."

Let's face it, the noble, extremely open source-focused goals that Sun Microsystems had for many of its projects, and its commitment to Java and openness are history. Oracle has its own plans for Java, and most legal observers who have analyzed the company's lawsuit against Google regarding Java and Android say that Oracle has a good case. Without a doubt, Oracle has made clear that it will be territorial regarding Java, but one interpretation of that is that we do know that there is an entity that will push Java forward.

That concept was much more shaky as Sun began to falter and its future became murky. IBM has substantial investments that are dependent on the forward progress of Java, and may function as ballast for Oracle as it makes Java-related decisions going forward. What we all need to watch is that Oracle and IBM don't allow competing interests or too much focus on proprietary strategies to impede Java's progress.