The hot topic of debate today is the breaking news story that IBM is in talks to acquire Sun. Dana Gardner doubts this, and a bunch of myFB and Twitter friends ask the obvious questions in their status updates: Why the heck would IBM want to do this?
I haven’t seen anyone yet bring up the Java question. As co-chair of the OSGi EEG and formerly 9-year employee of a Java vendor, I have seen the battles between Sun and IBM over the control of the Java langauge up close. It has never been a pretty picture.
Recently I was asked about Jonathan Schwartz’s blog entries about Sun’s future direction and corporate strategy. The content of these entries has been subject to the usual praise and criticism, but I haven’t seen anyone talk about what’s so obviously and painfully missing – at least for someone active in the Java community and trying to push the ball forward (e.g. enterprise OSGi). Where is the talk about leading the Java community? Where is the talk about collaboration with IBM, Oracle, Progress, Tibco, and others? Where is the description of how helpful Sun is toward Apache’s Java projects (especially Harmony)?
IBM has ported many products onto the OSGi framework during the past several years, including flagship products such as WebSphere Application Server and Lotus Notes. Never mind the fragmentation in the Java community caused by the disagreement over SCA. What about Sun’s recent announcement that they were going to reinvent Java modularity in the Open JDK project, all on their own, without input, without regard to what happens to OSGi? What kind of potential change cost does that represent to IBM and all the other Java vendors who have ported products onto OSGi?
The potential acquisition of Sun has been debated so far mostly in terms of the business value Sun has – that is, in the context of where it is still making money, as if that were the main or only reason for an acquisition. But I say again, what about the unrealized potential for collaborative leadership in the Java community? Sun obviously isn’t paying attention to this, but IBM might be.