Open-source Java could result in port to iPhone

Future plans call for open-sourcing of the JavaFX technology

With the first anniversary of open-source Java coming up November 13, a Sun official believes the project could bear a sought-after fruit in the Java community: The porting of Java to the Apple iPhone.

Apple has not made Java capable of running on the popular device. But Sun's Terrence Barr, technical evangelist for Java ME (Micro Edition), believes Apple's plans to release an SDK for iPhone in early-2008 may result in the open-source phoneME version of Java ME winding up on iPhone.

"It is quite likely that people will start porting phoneME to the iPhone to provide Java that way. I expect that to happen as a community effort," Barr said.

Java developers have clamored for Java on the iPhone, an effort that Sun has said would enable many Java applications to run on the device. But Apple has been dismissive of having Java on the iPhone. Apple could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, Sun officials lauded the progress of open-source Java after one year and said the effort had not resulted in any forking; no versions of Java have shown up that are incompatible with the main platform.

Developers "want this stuff to be compatible," said Rich Sands, community marketing manager for Java Platform Standard Edition at Sun.

From the May release of the JDK (Java Development Kit) via the OpenJDK open-source project, the entire base of more than 6.5 million lines of code has been downloaded 12,677 times as of October 27.

Sun chose GNU General Public License version 2 for OpenJDK in November 2006. This was considered an unusual choice at the time because Sun had its own CDDL (Common Development and Distribution License) license for open source. But GPLv2 discouraged forking and encouraged compatibility, Sands said.

About 96 percent of Java has been released as open source with the remaining 4 percent encumbered and only released as binaries. That 4 percent included some graphics libraries and encryption libraries. The IcedTea project, launched by the Red Hat Fedora community, aims to fill out the remainder of the JDK with free, compatible software, Sands said. Sun officials cited Red Hat's joining the OpenJDK community earlier this week.

"The big picture for OpenJDK is that in one year's time, we have built a community. We have seen tremendous interest on the part of the free and open source developers to join with us and work with us. We've seen several Linux distributions pick this up, and that's what IcedTea is about," Sands said.

Developers soon will be able to use the Mercurial source code system to manage the Java code.

"This allows [developers] to access it in a database format," said Sands.

Earlier this week, former Sun Vice President Larry Singer said he left the company in part because he thought the company was over-emphasizing its open-source efforts. As they did on Tuesday, Sun officials declined to respond to Singer's comments.

Asked if Sun has seen an improvement in sales of its hardware because of open-source Java, Sands said the open-source plans enable Sun to get into new markets in the developing world where open source is required. But he could not say whether hardware sales had increased thus far because of the open-source plan.

On the Java ME side for mobile and embedded systems, the phoneME project provides source code access. The phoneME community brought Java ME over to the Nokia M800 device, and an Italian consortium is building an interactive TV broadcasting system leveraging Java ME, Barr said.

Future plans call for open-sourcing of the JavaFX technology, extending Java to run multimedia applications on many types of systems.

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Paul Krill

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