Sun Microsystems is in talks with key partners to discuss the opening up of the Java standard amid mounting industry pressure to loosen its grip on the technology's future.
The software company is meeting with Java's largest licensees, including IBM, BEA and Oracle, to consider "opening up a couple of key control points in the whole process", said a Sun spokeswoman.
She would not elaborate, but said that "the big news is we finally have something on paper. It is a first draft of what the next Java Community Process (JCP) might be."
"There have been lots of complaints that the JCP is not open enough. We are listening to licensees, but it will be slow, as any change will be consensus-based. It could be the first of 50 drafts," she added.
Last December, Sun backed out of handing over Java to the formal standards body, the European Computer Manufacturers Association (ECMA).
Previously, the company claimed that maintaining ultimate control over the direction of Java is the only way to avoid violating the source code.
The spokeswoman said the "entire community," including smaller licensees and big corporate users such as FedEx, will be invited to comment if the talks go well.
An advisory group made up of the Java community, which will have final say over changes to the Java specification, is one of the options being discussed.
"We are throwing up the idea of an advisory group to our key partners. We need to determine its make-up, capacity and voting behaviour and discuss what its role would be compared with the existing role of the expert group," said the spokeswoman.
The key partners are first to be consulted "because they are the most vocal and have the most skin in the game", she added.
Martin Brampton, an analyst at Bloor Research, said: "I've been talking to vendors who won't commit 100 per cent to Java as they don't want Scott McNeally [Sun's chief executive] writing their business plans for them."
"Sun has to convince the industry that it is serious this time. It can't afford to do what it did with ECMA; one minute committing and the next pulling out. Java has to be in the hands of a credible group that isn't dominated by Sun or the importance of Java will diminish."
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