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From the SYS-CON Archives: If Sun Gets Bought, Who Gets Java?

October 6, 2004 in Java Developer's Journal

"It's not easy to see why IBM would want to buy Sun," writes Javalobby founder Rick Ross in his latest discussion of the vexed question: who, if Sun were bought, would get Java?

The discussion has been fueled both by last week's Kodak decision which has found Java to be in breach of certain copyrights held by Eastman Kodak Co., and this week's Oracle-PeopleSoft shenanigans, with a takeover of the latter by the former looking increasingly likely by the day.


But if not IBM, then who?

"A more likely name that often surfaces would be Japanese giant, Fujitsu, which is already Sun's largest reseller," Ross continues, then adds: "A far-fetched, but interesting and exciting, scenario could be one in which a third party would partner with Fujitsu to acquire Sun."

Ross's reasoning behind discounting IBM as a potential "white knight" for Java is as follows. He argues that IBM doesn't need Sun's portfolio of hardware products, customer and partner relationships, or even its intellectual property assets in order to be hugely successful. "Big Blue probably makes more money just from its WebSphere brand, products and related services every year than Sun has made with Java since the beginning."

Fujitsu, on the other hand, Ross sees as a plausible purchaser because Sun has already enjoyed a longstanding and incredibly high-value partnership with Fujitsu to sell hardware and services in Fujitsu's market territory. He envisages that a "friendly" acquisition might be on the cards under certain circumstances:

Fujitsu chairman Naoyuki Akikusa

"If Fujitsu feels that its profitable revenue stream is jeopardized by Sun's weakness, or if Fujitsu feels that the net value of the revenue stream it would control by owning Sun is higher than the acquisition costs, then we could see a purchase scenario evolve."

The third scenario, in which Fujistu plus one other steps into the picture and buys Sun, seems to be the one that interests Ross most. "Fujitsu could acquire the hardware and services businesses and the third party could acquire key intellectual property assets like the Java technology, patents, and trademarks," Ross hypothesizes, adding:

"If Sun is already almost attractive enough for Fujitsu to buy it anyway, then a partner who might have greater use for the Java-related business could be all it takes to make the possibility into a reality. There must be several candidates who stand to win or lose billions of dollars based on the longer term success of Java."

Ross ends with a caveat that all such speculation is really only "wild conjecture" at this point. 

"Even if the jury grants the entire billion dollars that Kodak is seeking in the patent infringement case Sun just lost, there is still a good deal of cash left in Sun's coffers," he writes. "I do not feel that any of us in the Java space should be worried about business catastrophe at Sun putting Java in any jeopardy."

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Most Recent Comments
mehru 10/16/04 11:14:41 AM EDT

I think that, this alternative has more future than Java/.Net.

Yeah, i know, it's beta. But has OpenGL support, and a lot of features. Light, elegant... it's really better.

omega 10/07/04 06:44:49 AM EDT

Let's suppose that Sun magically looses the $7B they have in the bank. All their cash! Or see their sales drop to ZERO for 10 quarters straight....as if...anyway...let's suppose....

Java's IP is an asset.
When a company is liquidated, its assets are put for sale.
Java would be bought.

By who?
Microsoft, to kill Java ?
IBM, to keep Java alive ?
Kodak, to do god knows what ?

More probably IBM. So Java would not die.

If others buy Java, there would be such bad publicity against such a company killing one of the most widely used technologies that it would backfire on them. Businesses using Java would not decide to port to .NET. instead they would migrate to GNU Java or a similar compatible alternative. So even in the worst case, Java would continue to live. There is a JCP process I heard... C++ had no such open process, and AT&T stopped pushing C++ for years now (Stroustrup does not even work there anymore).

So anyway, the question asked by this article is pure FUD aimed at killing Java in the heard of those with a low IQ.

What if.... What if.... What if.... What if....

bsd_usr 10/07/04 06:42:58 AM EDT

I don't understand all this talk about GPL'ing Java. I mean, what exactly are you GPL'ing? The JVM? The compiler suite? The APIs?

If you GPL a language, then wouldn't the viral nature of the GPL then insist that all programs written with that GPL'd language be required to be GPL'd themselves?

Oh wait, now that I'm thinking about this more. I'm sure what's getting GPL'd is the compiler suite and the libraries, right? Okay, now that I can understand. Is that it though? Wait a minute, but then if you write programs that use the GPL'd libraries then again the viral nature of the GPL would require that your programs are GPL'd as well. Damn. Can't win!

Okay, so the libraries can be LGPL'd and the compiler suite and JVM can be GPL'd. That would be okay, wouldn't it? Then I can write commercial software and keep my IP protected, right?

Personally, I think they should BSD license it if SUN goes belly-up. Although, I'm sure people would be afraid of Java forking and stuff like that. Although, that should't be too much of a worry. If the project is strong (strong leadership, strong marketing, strong goals), people won't use forks anyway. They'll stick to using sporks. ;)

aaa 10/07/04 06:35:32 AM EDT

Make a research or poll in real Java developers (not the people who only bash it) who uses open source products, most of them will oppose a GPL'ed Java (my guess is more than 90%), and again most of them will oppose a Java base that can be forked. As for seing the code, it is already open, unlike MS .NET.

To me, Java only should be more open to the public contribution (Better bug-issue tracking system, better patching mechanism etc.), and should be distributed easier - but changes should be applied, decisiions should be made by an authority.

'Sun goes down, Java goes down' arguments are flat stupid..

viro 10/07/04 06:28:54 AM EDT

What the open source people want is for the source code to be GPL, and not licensed under SCSL. With the current SCSL, you can only view the source code but you can't make your own patch and then distribute that patch. You need to submit the patch back to Sun for them to integrate it into the Java platform. the problem is, this normally takes a long time and sometimes patches just get ignored.

There are many open sourced Java-compatibly VMs available at the moment. SableVM, Kaffe and even GCJ are all open sourced implementations of the Java language. If Sun went belly up and decided to take Java down with them, what's to stop IBM, BEA, Oracle and Fujitsu from picking up one of these projects and carrying on the work?

GNUtwo 10/07/04 06:26:09 AM EDT

GPL'ing Java would ensure its long term use, then Java could never die.

anon 10/07/04 06:24:28 AM EDT

If Sun ever became bankrupt, they would either GPL Java, or sell it to a company like IBM or Apple. Even Microsoft might buy it, never to develop it further, to give their own languages a greater chance of success.

I really can't see Java just passively dying - there would be no logical reason for that at all.

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