By William Fellows
Sun Microsystems Inc is making intellectual property available through its Community License Model as a way to expand the market for its products without requiring payment of an up-front fee; its PicoJava and Sparc microprocessor designs are the latest to get the treatment. Sun will make its picoJava 2 core design available by the end of this month; the 32-bit Sparc V8 architecture by the end of the summer; and the 64-bit Sparc V9 core by the end of the year. Sun will make available everything a potential customer needs to design and develop an implementation of each design, including RTL files, up to the point of manufacture. At that point a company signs a commercial agreement and agrees to pay Sun a royalty for each product shipped in what has been described as a quasi open source model, but definitely not open source as it is generally understood. Sun says that it will not increase royalty charges to offset the loss of up-front license fees, and expects all of its current licensees to roll over to the new model once their current agreements are up. It hopes the downstream revenue model will double the volume of picoJava and Sparc chips in the market by eliminating some of the barriers to entry including the costs associated with getting into the market. It says current up-front license fees started in the tens of thousands of dollars and went to hundreds of thousands of dollars. The cores can be extended without requiring value-add – except for bug-fixes – to be returned to Sun, which allows for the (unlikely) possibility that anyone will create a faster version of UltraSparc for example. Sun has already decided that it won’t develop Java chips itself but instead leave implementation of the picoJava design to chip houses.