A group of industry giants led by Microsoft last week came out against Sun Microsystems' plans for a Java standard, just in time to meet Tuesday?s deadline for lodging objections to the International Standards Organisation (ISO).
Sun wants to have Java turned into an official standard by becoming the first supplier to be named as a ?publicly available submitter? (PAS) by the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission. But, while this provides a swift route to a standard, it would effectively turn Sun into Java's controlling body in its own right, raising suspicions among some companies that it is not sincere about making Java an open standard.
Predictably, the anti-Sun lobby centres on Microsoft, but other big names have also voiced their opposition, notably Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq and Texas Instruments. Only IBM has given the Sun plan its backing, and only then with certain pre-conditions attached.
Clyde Camp, director of corporate standards at Texas Instruments, explained: "We do not believe that a single company, even with the best intent and input from other sources, should effectively control an international standard of this type. We would feel much more comfortable if Java were being submitted by a recognised industry consortia or user group in which true multi-organisational consensus was reached."
Dave Michael, speaking for Apple?s Global Standards division, said: "Apple is fundamentally opposed to any single for-profit company being allowed to become a PAS submitter," he said. "[This] is not in keeping with the original intent and sets a dangerous precedent that could allow any number of proprietary solutions to be considered."
Inevitably, the most vigorous opposition to Sun?s plans came from Microsoft, which accused the company of trying to maintain a tight hold on Java while pretending to throw it open to the entire IT industry. Brad Silverberg, Microsoft senior vice president, went as far as to warn the ISO and IEC that they would damage their own credibility if the Sun proposals are accepted.
"Microsoft believes that Sun?s application demonstrates that Sun wishes to retain full ownership and control over its Java specifications while simultaneously reaping the benefit of an ISO/IEC standard for its proprietary technology," he claimed. "[Acceptance] would also create an adverse precedent with numerous and long lasting problems for the standards community."
Jim Mitchell, vice president of technology and architecture at Sun?s subsidiary Javasoft, admitted that Sun?s application to become a PAS submitter was unusual, but added that there were sound reasons for wanting to take this approach. "Sun decided to pursue PAS submitter status because taking specifications to the ISO/IEC for adoption can be relatively fast, consistent with an industry on Internet time," he explained.
"Sun?s process for developing Java specifications is not unilateral, nor can it be," he went on. "Java?s value is intimately bound to its broad acceptance by the Internet community and the computer industry, who will not stand for any attempts to foist proprietary solutiosn on them in place of open standards like TCP/IP and HTML."
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