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You know, there's a certain degree to which a blogging commentator like myself is in a fantasy world. I mean, I consider myself relatively smart and knowledgeable about Java and the IT industry, but when I read the tea leaves and guess that maybe Sun is planning on spinning off Java, at a certain level it can feel like woolgathering. And while it's gratifying when other tech commentators come to the same conclusion, it's a whole different order of magnitude of shock when you see, say, Sun's director of Web technologies proposing the idea.
Yes, yesterday Tim Bray put up on his blog a very cogent vision for Sun's future called "What Sun Should Do." He starts with the caveat that this is his opinion and not Sun's, but it does represent one Sun higher-up's vision, as he makes clear that he's advocating for it within the company. He sees Sun focusing on a unified Web deployment platform that combines Solaris, Sun's server and storage offerings, the HotSpot JVM, GlassFish, and MySQL. And what about the Java language?
As for Sun's role as Steward of Java, and in particular the Java Community Process, let it go already. Java has mostly won and is mostly the establishment, and the community is smart and conservative enough to keep anyone from doing what Microsoft tried last millennium, or in any other way to subvert Java's interoperability. In 2008, the JCP is costing Sun opportunities and friends and gaining us very little that I can see. So I'd like Sun to set the JCP free, turn it over to the community, and when we develop some cool Java-based technology in-house, take it to market, try to make some money with it, and after it's caught on and the bugs are shaken out, consider whether or not it ought to be taken to the JCP ... For actual business apps, the kind that our servers spend most of their time running, the war for the desktop is over and the Web Browser won. I just totally don't believe that any combination of Flash and Silverlight and JavaFX is going to win it back. AJAX is increasingly central and we need to make sure that our Web Suite and its tools support it well. But as for GUIs and the client side, let it go already.
Kind of breathtaking, isn't it? Who knows if this vision is the one that will emerge from the Sun's internal machinations, but it has the advantage of of being reasonably clear and coherent -- and I think any clear and coherent new strategy for Sun will have a hard time figuring out what profitable future the company has as a steward for the Java language.