IBM borrowing from Harmony for its JVM

Hey, remember that whole dispute between The Apache Software Foundation and Sun over the Test Compatibility Kits for Apache Harmony, the ASF's Java SE implementation? You might recall back when everyone was sure that IBM would be buying Sun, folks seemed convinced that this boded well for a resolution of the dispute on Apache's terms. Thus, it's very interesting to me that Craig Hayman, VP at IBM's WebSphere division, noted casually at JavaOne that his company is using Harmony libraries for its own JVM.

Of course, Harmony already figures prominently as the basis for Google's non-Java-standard Android environment, but what's interesting to me about this is that I'm assuming IBM's JVM has been walked through the certification process. In a way, then, this provides a sort of back door to the certification of at least some of Harmony's code.

But more interesting than that is the fact that IBM is cheerfully borrowing non-Sun-certified code for its Java implementation. Sun earned a lot of community goodwill by using its control of the Java trademark to stave off Microsoft's embrace-and-extend onslaught at the turn of the century. But the Apache controversy may mean that that control is seen in a less flattering light. And because Java is for the most part now open source, it can be simply bypassed, so long as you don't want to call what you've produced Java. The fact that IBM feels fully confident about using non-Sun-certified code in its JVM may indicate that Sun's certification is not the prerequisite for respect and compatibility that it once was. If smart folks can look at the code and declare it to be workable Java, then in some ways Sun's opinion doesn't matter -- and if the community thinks that Sun's approval is based on non-technical merits, then it begins to lose its social currency.

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