Tuesday, November 14, 2006

GPL Java: Thank You, Sun!

Eight months ago, I wrote an open letter to Jonathan Schwartz asking him to open source Java. Of course this instigated the typical reactionary troll war on blogs and such. A lot has changed since then. Jonathan went from being the COO of Sun to the CEO of Sun. And now Jonathan has decided to release Java under the GPL license. As many of you know, I am not a big fan of the GPL license, but GPL makes a lot of sense for core platforms such as operating systems and virtual machine layers directly above those operating systems, since GPL enforces that no one can own that layer or extend it in proprietary ways.

When I left Sun in 2003, it was a lumbering, rudderless ship that was taking on a lot of water. In just the past year we have seen a commitment to AMD x64 chips in addition to SPARC chips, endorsement of scripting languages on the Java platform, and now a GPL Java. For those of us that are Sun alum that left as part of the brain drain of 2002-2005, we are seeing a lot of the ineffective middle and upper management that caused us all to leave in the first place getting ejected from the company.

There is even talk of GPL'ing Solaris, which would enable the best Solaris features to be ported over to Linux and create a hybrid operating system. I would not be surprised if there is a movement away from NetBeans to Eclipse and further adoption of x64 chips over SPARC chips (perhaps even a SPARC to x64 microtranslator!).

Sun could have easily gone the way of SGI and is changing itself instead. By fixing its core problems of competing with commodity technologies, it is freeing itself to compete with innovation on top of those technologies. So while many may continue to snipe, I offer kudos to Jonathan Schwartz and Sun. Well done!

1 comment:

Julian said...

Peter, why don't you like the GPL license?

I don't recall reading that you disliked it.

Nice table in your Googlology post!