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Sun, Java, and the Middle Course

Onno Kluyt leans forward intently. He's doing interviews all this week, and here he is leaning across yet another generic table in yet another interchangeable room at Moscone South with an assiduous PR person at his elbow and a skeptical journalist in his crosshairs. Kluyt's job at JavaOne is to talk up community, to push this message of openness relentlessly to the press and to developers, and if he were anything less than earnest about the task, it would be painful to watch.

Onno Kluyt discusses Sun's Java Community Process at JavaOne.

But there is no mistaking Kluyt's commitment. He's the chair of Sun's Java Community Process (JCP) program (, and Sun's commitment to community is not just his message, it's his mission. "JCP defines what Java is," he tells me. "It's where to stay abreast of developments in Java, even if you're not active in the JCP. It's the one place where Sun can't ignore you."

Jonathan Schwartz and Rich Green share the stage at JavaOne.

This idea of community is not just some public relations gimmick Sun dreamed up last week. It's not unreasonable to say that Sun has always been about openness. "We were the Red Hat of Berkeley UNIX back in 1982," Scott McNealy has said. Andy Bechtolscheim's original workstation that convinced Vinod Khosla to start Sun was a model of building with off-the-shelf parts. With Java, "the open story has been going on for 11 years," Community Marketing Manager Rich Sands tells me over another of those tables at Moscone. The arrival of Java also brought increased emphasis on another capital-C theme about which Sun is obsessive—compatibility, encapsulated in the slogan "Write once, run anywhere."

But Sun is currently facing challenges on many fronts. Open Source projects like Eclipse challenge its development tools and challenge its commitment to openness. There's a challenge in meeting demand for programmer productivity and speed of development that is being thrown at Sun by focused development environments and tools like Ruby on Rails. Microsoft is a perpetual challenge, with dot-net now the elephant in the room. There's profitability, of course: The bottom line is challenging Sun now. And, arising out of all these challenges, there's the challenge of a dubious image.

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