On December 8, Sun Microsystems made two announcements of interest to the Linux community. One was the completion of the Linux port to the UltraSPARC architecture; the other was the new, more open licensing of Java.
When Sun joined Linux International back in May, it was with the expressed intention of joining the Linux community to do the UltraSPARC port. This has now become a reality. In addition, they have announced their intention to allow vendors to sell the UltraSPARC preloaded with Linux as well as Solaris.
Every machine sold preloaded with Linux is another win for Linux. An even bigger win is having yet one more of the “big guys” acknowledge that computers with Linux pre-installed are more attractive to potential buyers, especially those new to Linux. I for one am happy to see Sun following in the footsteps of Corel Computer and Cobalt Networks in making this decision.
The new, open licensing for Java has been speculated about for some time. Will Sun make it open? If so, when? Well, they did it with this announcement-another big win for the Open Source movement. Source code has always been free for non-commercial use and the binaries have been freely available for use in tools developed by others. Here's how it has become more open, according to the press release:
Allows commercial entities to use and modify the source code for commercial software product development without charge.
Allows innovation of the source code without requiring that innovation be returned to Sun.
Allows commercial entities to modify and share compatible source code with other commercial entities without charge and without mediation from Sun.
Allows licensees to package for resale Sun's Java platform class libraries with virtual machines from other licensees.
These are major changes, but not quite the GPL. Developers who actually incorporate the code into a commercial product will still be required to pay a fee to Sun. Still, it's a step in the right direction and others are sure to follow suit.
In a similar vein, Troll Tech announced in November that it plans to release version 2.0 of the Free Edition of the Qt graphical interface under an Open Source license. This will eliminate any worries and controversy regarding inclusion of the KDE desktop in commercial products.
Good news, indeed, to everyone who has wished for a user-friendly desktop for Linux. KDE has come a long way toward providing that option for those who are shy of the command line. (See “KDE: The Highway Ahead” by Kalle Dalheimer in this issue.)