Java group pulls out chair for Microsoft

The organization that oversees Java technology standards says Microsoft Corp. is welcome to join, so long as the software giant can play nice with other tech entities.

Members of the Java Community Process (JCP), a Java-tech standards body, seemed willing to accept with open arms Microsoft as a JCP member, given certain limitations. For instance, Microsoft would have to be willing to accept the transparency that the JCP fosters for Java technology developments.

“If they can do that, then they’re welcome,” said JCP chair Onno Kluyt, speaking at a JCP roundtable at JavaOne, Sun Microsystems Inc.’s Java developer conference being held June 26 to 30 in San Francisco.

Don Deutsch, a JCP member representing Oracle Corp., was skeptical about Microsoft’s interest in joining the collective. He said .Net, Microsoft’s application environment, is “closed, single-source technology. We’re working on technology that is open and shared.”

Mark Reinhold of Sun said Microsoft might find a reason to join the JCP within the purview of Java-.Net compatibility.

This is the first JavaOne in which Microsoft has ever participated. The firm has a booth on the exhibit floor, causing more than one person to comment that the Java environment is changing, for better or for worse. Whereas once upon a time Microsoft was considered to be something of a corporation non grata in the Java community, it seems that’s no longer the case. And whereas Sun and Microsoft once acted as each other’s sworn enemy, these days the firms are working together to ensure their respective technologies interoperate with the other’s wares.

The JCP is changing too, judging from the words of some of its participants. Kluyt, for instance, said amendments to the processes by which the JCP takes a technology from inception to industry-wide acceptance as a standard have yielded efficiencies. It now takes up to a half-year less for a Java Specification Request (JSR) to become a standard than it used to, although the new speediness comes courtesy of familiarity as much as it does from augmented methods: JCP members are getting better at managing standard creation as they get used to JCP routine, Kluyt said.

David Neuscheler from Day Software Holding AG said he suggested that the JCP should change its review processes to allow people outside of the JCP to scrutinize JSRs earlier and thus speed up the standard-development cycle. The JCP implemented his suggestion, Neuscheler said, pointing out that the JCP is a nimble society.

But the JCP isn’t perfect. Kimmo Loytana of Nokia Corp. said sometimes specs require debugging after they’ve become standards. For fixes, the JCP has maintenance mechanisms. “Spec leads should just use them more,” he said.

Although JCP members largely described the organization as open and transparent, it’s not enough of either for Geir Magnusson of Apache Software. His company’s business model revolves around open-source technology; Magnusson said he’d like the JCP to operate in an even more open and transparent way. That’s why his company continues to play a part in the group. Participation is the best way to effect change, he pointed out. “There’s still more work to do.”

Asked what’s next for the JCP, Deutsch from Oracle said service-oriented architecture (SOA)-minded technology seems to be a hot topic for JSR creators, but for the most part it’s tough to say what sorts of IT the group will face down the road. After all, “there are technologies that aren’t even on the radar screen” that someone, somewhere is dreaming up for the Java standard-making gauntlet, he said.

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