In James Gosling’s blog this week he comments on IBM’s letters asking Sun to Open Source Java.
The main question is what does IBM stand to gain from this. Currently the Java source is free to anyone to download, and I believe anyone is also free to implement their own VM, providing if it is distributed it passes Sun’s certification that it is bytecode compatible with other JVM implementations, implements the whole specification, and doesn’t include any proprietary extenstions. IBM do this today – you can download IBM’s own JVM from their site.
So it would seem IBM’s main interest here is to implement a JVM and not have to pass Sun’s certification. So why would they do this? One can only assume that they wish to take Java in a different direction than Sun and add other features that are currently not provided.
This is exactly what Sun is trying to avoid – if this situation happens then the Java platform may become fragmented with many different incompatible versions. Incidentally, this is what Microsoft attempted with their own JVM flavor (J++), that Sun eventually managed to have stopped in a court case.