Sun Microsystems has changed the licence of its Java technology to allow for better interoperability with open source products including Linux, the company revealed at the JavaOne conference.
The move will push adoption of the programming language on Linux systems because developers can now trust that such systems will be able to run a Java application, argued Simon Phipps, chief open source officer at Sun.
"This unlocks a new opportunity for Java developers that has been very hard to reach into in the past. You can develop applications and target Ubuntu [and other Linux distributions] and know that Java is present on the machine," Phipps said during a press conference.
The previous version of the licence banned software developers from shipping a Java Runtime Engine or Java Development Kit with operating systems. Instead it tied those tools to specific applications and prevented any other applications from accessing them.
The old terms were put in place to prevent companies from forking Java. Sun has fought a year-long legal battle against Microsoft to ensure that the latter would not create a slightly alternative language from Java. A judge eventually forced Microsoft to give up its alternative distribution.
The new licence allows developers to ship the code on any medium and through any distribution mechanism, the company explained.
Sun has also changed the language of the licence to assure developers that they can ship Java and competing technologies such as Mono, the open source .Net implementation. The vendor has also changed Java's indemnification rules to work better with open source licences.
Although Java cannot be bundled, users could still manually download and install Java on their systems. Distributions could also purchase a licence for the technology, a route that Novell has taken.
"Large numbers of people are writing Java code that gets deployed on Linux. But then a system administrator goes through that heavyweight process of finding the Java, bringing it in and creating a system," said Mark Shuttleworth, chief executive of Canonical, the main sponsor of the Ubuntu Linux distribution.
The distro is one of the first to include Java as an optional download. Shuttleworth added that Java is not used much by individual independent software developers, who instead opt for tools that are more easily accessible such as Mono.
"We can expect to see a lot more work happening now with Java that's innovative, lightweight, fast and more interesting. That is really where a lot of the exciting stuff happens in the free software space," he said.
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