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In the beginning there was Oak. It was totally proprietary and hidden from normal view. Oak blossomed into Java and addicted vast legions of people because it was basically free. The fact that anyone could get the Java source code and port it to new platforms and release his binaries to the public was a clear statement that Sun was serious about making Java an open platform.
I am often asked whether and when there will be support for other platforms. Sun officially only supports its own Solaris 2.x for SPARC and x86, Microsoft's Windows 95 & NT, and Apple's MacOS.
Sun has commercially licensed Java to the likes of Borland, HP, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Silicon Graphics, and Symantec (check out Sun's Java licensees for a more complete list). A good portion of the licensees are porting Java to a number of additional platforms. Unfortunately, many platforms (such as FreeBSD, GEOS, Linux, and even Sun's own SunOS) are not targeted for a Java port by any commercial licensee. To fill the gap, a number of individuals have taken the task upon themselves to produce ports to some of those commercially unsupported platforms.
Randy Chapman took on the porting task for the Linux Java community. The success of this and other non-commercial porting projects helped to solidify the notion that Java was truly going to be an open, cross-platform solution. Sure, the commercial licensees like SGI, Symantec, Microsoft, and Borland have helped to legitimize and strengthen the Java movement, but a good chunk of the huge Java groundswell has been from folks using the "fringe" systems like Linux.
The porting problem has been creeping up on everyone since the v1.0 beta releases. The license agreements in the earlier releases sounded quite clear on the issues of distributing ported Sun Java tools in binary format (note that source code redistribution has never been allowed). The licensing agreements in the more recent releases, however, have seemingly become increasingly strict for the non-commercial licensees. The original Oak/Java team may have threatened to leave en masse if the pre-alpha version was not made "freely available," but since that time many of them have left Sun/JavaSoft anyway, so some folks fear that the lawyers have taken firm control of Java at this point and that the licensing terms will only get tighter.
As of this writing, there are no plans for a Linux port of the Java Developer's Kit (JDK) 1.0.2 or any subsequent version. Given that the Linux port has been a sort of flagship for other free porting groups, it is likely that the other groups will follow the Linux port's lead. The JDK 1.0.2 license is, according to the non-commercial porting folks, too ambiguous for them to continue. It seems to imply that by releasing the binaries they have created by porting the Sun Java source code, these groups are opening themselves to some potentially severe legal action from Sun. The porters do not feel it is worth the risk of Sun suing them into the oblivion (er, um, for "damages") when they have done all of this work for the benefit of the Java community (and hence, for Sun). I have not been privy to any of the private communication between the porting folks and Sun, but it has been pretty clear in the reports to the Linux Java community that until yesterday Sun has basically ignored all efforts to clarify and try to rectify the situation.