It's JavaOne week, there's a new guy in charge of Sun, and the big announcement is "the company was working toward making its Java programming language available free as open-source software". Yes: there's still no open source license. "Working on it".
Poor Sun. It's been painful to watch the company's seven year slide into irrelevance. But their mishandling of Java is the worst story of all. Yes, they built a fine programming platform that created a few profitable server businesses (you know: IBM, BEA.) But their open source strategy has been a fiasco. I still shudder at the memory of the 1988 SCSL 1.0, Sun's first attempt at open source licensing. It was so complicated that it managed to tie up lawyers and developers for years arguing about what it meant.
There's a chance that if Sun had embraced open source back then the Java platform would have been adopted and loved by the open source geeks. Instead they fled to create newer technologies: Python, Ruby and Rails, PHP. Now Java seems increasingly irrelevant; a necessity sometimes, but a frustrating middleground between C++ and a nice scripting language like Python or Ruby. I wonder if anyone will care about Java's future by the time Sun figures out a workable open source license?
PS: please don't email me to say "Sun had to restrict Java licensing because Microsoft was going to corrupt the platform OMG suxx0rs!". That threat ended years ago, and if Sun really hamstrung their own technology out of fear of Microsoft then they're dumber than they look. Anyway, it's really all about Sun vs. IBM.