Sun set for open source with Java SE 6 release

A new release of Sun's desktop Java adds new GUI tools and Vista support.

Sun Microsystems today releases Java Standard Edition 6, it's first major Java release since it announced plans to open source the platform.

Key changes in Java SE 6 include a new scripting model that can mix Java with popular web 2.0 technologies, and the bundling of a database based on the Apache Group's Derby. Debugging has been improved with deep support for Sun's Solaris DTrace. Sun expects users to see a performance boost, and quotes a 30 per cent improvement with off-the-shelf applications.

With the full release of Open JDK expected sometime in the first half of 2007, Java SE 6 tested an open development model, and 330 external developers worked with Sun's engineering team.

Sun's chief open source officer Simon Phipps suggested that Sun may use the next version of the Free Software Foundation's GPL licence in the future, and that Sun had chosen to use the current GPL v2 for OpenJDK purely on the grounds that the GPL v3 was a work in progress. Phipps said he felt that it would be "irresponsible of Sun to commit to a license it hasn't yet seen." He remains impressed with the GPL v3 process, and Sun is continuing to work with the Software Freedom Centre to remove any legal hindrances to the release of OpenJDK.

While Sun remains coy about the revenue generated by Java, Simon Phipps points out that Sun is a systems business, and that the question is "like asking Ford if they make a profit from manufacturing door hinges". He cites considerable investment, with new development tools and the development of an open source community around OpenJDK.

Java 6 SE will work with Windows Vista. Brad Goldberg, Microsoft's General Manager for Windows Client, is pleased, "We want to see a good Java technology experience for customers using Windows". Java SE 6 supports the .NET framework's web services components, helping build Java front-ends for .NET applications.

The introduction of the Matisse GUI-builder tools simplifies the process of building cross-platform Java desktop applications, and tools for working with it are built into Sun's NetBeans 5.5 development environment - with third party solutions already available for Eclipse.

Developers updating Java SE 5 applications to Java SE 6 can take advantage of 60 days free access to Sun's developer support programme.

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