Java mavens Sun Microsystems Inc, IBM Corp and Netscape Communications Corp are joining forces to try and prevent further fragmentation in the Java community by working to converge their respective Java development efforts. They’ll begin work immediately to align new JDK Java Developer Kit 1.1 implementations next quarter and hope to be able to ship identical versions of JDK 1.2 at the same time in the second quarter of 1998. However, IBM told us it will more likely be JDK 1.3 before all of their work is in synch. The plan is to port each new version of Java to all of their respective platforms, browsers, tools and applications all at the same time; to do serious tuning of Java class libraries, and to get on to a common source base. As part of the agreement Sun will ship Netscape’s HTML rendering engine with the JDK. Encapsulated in a Java Bean, the engine enables Java interfaces to display HTML pages. Big Blue will also put its eight application porting centers at the disposal of Sun, Netscape and their ISVs working on Java convergence.
The way Java is implemented right now, each vendor has a different JDK implementation supporting different extensions and plug-ins and for ISVs to be able to take advantage of each company’s value-add it must effectively a tailor a version of its Java application for each. If not actually breaking the spirit of Sun’s write once run anywhere mantra, it’s pushing it to the limit to say the least. The convergence work will be overseen by Sun’s JavaSoft division as the Java Porting and Tuning Center and will involve engineers from the three companies, their ISVs plus other companies which participate; it’s not supposed to be an exclusive club. Sun CEO Scott McNealy said he’d called Redmond to invite Microsoft Corp on board but had got voice mail. In a telephone interview Microsoft’s internet platform and tools division group product manager Cornelius Willis told us his company not been asked and that the initiative was an admission that ‘write once run anywhere’ has failed. Part of the agreement (which led to a hastily-convened press conference Tuesday as it was only signed late Monday afternoon) means that where appropriate, Netscape and IBM will turn over intellectual property to JavaSoft for inclusion in JDK in return for a reduction in Java license fees or a payment in kind, perhaps in the form of Sun technology.