An open letter to Jonathan Schwartz

This post was also published in InfoWorld.

Dear Jonathan,

Long time no see! The same way you enjoy writing open letters to IBM and others in your blog -- I wanted to write an open letter to you and Sun, and see if I can get a little clarity about your open source software strategy. As I am sure you have noticed, there has been quite a bit of momentum around LAMP in the industry, ranging from innovators like Google, Yahoo!, and Amazon, to the "Web 2.0" crowd like Friendster, MySpace, and Flickr. In addition, LAMP has increasing usage in the enterprise.

The "P" languages in LAMP -- PHP, Python, and Perl -- are all open source, and each provide their own virtual machine. It would be ideal if the Java JVM was open source so that open source projects like PHP could join up with the Java Virtual Machine. In turn, Java would be much more competitive with .Net, which supports numerous languages out of the box. Initiatives like adding dynamic language support in the JVM will not go far if Java can not meet existing languages on a common ground of open source.

What is unfortunate about Sun's open source strategy is that it is very unclear. Can you please answer the following question with a single coherent sentence that people can remember and repeat? If I ask five Sun employees this question, I get five different answers, so having simple answers to these questions will clearly help your own workforce as well as your customers and prospects!

"Why is it good to open source OpenSolaris and OpenOffice and bad to open source Java?"

We all know the standard Sun answer that Java will get fractured and that the JCP is great. However, OpenSolaris and OpenOffice have not been fractured since being open sourced. And most of the Java innovation nowadays comes from open source projects like Spring and Hibernate, not the JCP, which then has to recreate all of these open source projects. Some of the biggest supports of Java, including IBM and BEA and others in the JCP executive committee, have long asked for Java to be open sourced.

So what's up? Can you guys let go a bit and let us all share a single, open source virtual machine? It would be good for Java, good for LAMP, and good for customers. Combining two of the three leading development platforms would make them both more competitive against .Net.