Sun, Microsoft look to appease developers

Sun Microsystems and Microsoft are making moves to placate developers currently dissatisfied with the companies' stances on specific development issues.

Sun is tweaking its Java licensing, emphasizing that it wants to make Java as open source as possible without compromising platform compatibility. The vendor also provided an update on the next version of Java, which will boost Web services on the client side. Microsoft, meanwhile, seeks to assure Visual Basic 6.0 developers of a clean migration path to future technologies.

Key to Sun's licensing plan is Project Peabody, which introduces a licensing scheme called JIUL (Java Internal Use License), pronounced "jewel." Under JIUL, users are allowed to change Java source code for internal use only. JIUL is based on an honor system, in which Sun expects compatibility with the J2SE platform but will rely on users for compatibility assurance. Use of Java under JIUL is free.

"We're trying to respect the needs of both sides, to create a licensing and collaboration atmosphere that's as close to open source as possible while not violating the expectations of the rest of the world around interoperability and compatibility," said James Gosling, CTO of the developer platform group at Sun.

Created to simplify licensing, Peabody is focused on transparency in developing source code. "I'm glad to hear things are opening up and there's more transparency," said Anne Manes, an analyst at Burton Group.

Sun officials also provided an update on the forthcoming Version 6.0 of J2SE, code-named Mustang. Due to ship in 2006, Mustang will make it easier to build large-scale desktop applications with Java, Sun said. With Mustang, Java clients will use Web services to talk with back-end Java or Microsoft .Net-based systems.

Microsoft, meanwhile, will end free support of its legacy Visual Basic 6.0 programming language by March 31, despite a petition seeking a strong commitment to the language.

The company has been developing features in the forthcoming Visual Basic 2005 intended to help developers move from Visual Basic 6.0. Among those features are an Edit and Continue function and an Auto Correct function in the source-code editor offering suggested fixes for 229 compiler errors.

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