February 6, 2004

Sun 'explains' open source at EclipseCon

Author: Joe Barr

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Simon Phipps, formerly an IBM employee and for the last two years Chief Technology Evangelist for Sun Microsystems, gave his EclipseCon keynote address Thursday. As you might expect, he took exception to a couple of remarks from Wednesday morning's keynoter, Michael Tiemann of Red Hat. Phipps's talk was on "The Business of Open Source." It was interesting, almost a through-the-looking-glass experience, to hear a suit from Sun stand on a stage and try to explain open source to an audience of mostly proprietary developers. It should be noted that the ballroom where the keynote was given was not far from Disney's Fantasyland.Phipps credited the Internet for creating the massively connected world required for open source to flourish. He quoted Bob Metcalfe on the importance of networks being dependent on the number of connections it makes rather than on the number of nodes. Metcalfe, you may recall, enjoyed referring to the "open sores" movement.

Phipps then harkened back to an age before the industrial revolution, to the time when trade guilds flourished, as a predecessor for open source today. His history of the movement was completed without a single mention of Richard Stallman. He also chose to provide his own definition for open source. Near the end of his talk, Phipps said: "Open source was triggered by the release of Java in 1995." He pointed out the term itself was not coined until 1999.

Next, Phipps talked about open source deployment, then spoke briefly about some of the lessons learned about open source business by Sun thus far.

Sun Microsystems has done more to advance open source than any other firm in the world, according to Phipps. He cited total lines of code donated to open source to support his claim, and told the audience to check on Sun's contributions themselves by visiting this page on the web.

In Wednesday's keynote, Michael Tiemann said that Eclipse was at the tipping point because it wasn't locked in to Java only, unlike NetBeans. Phipps closed by pointing out that, "Eclipse and NetBeans are both language-neutral, even though both are written in Java."

He also disputed Tiemann's claim that Java was a "religion," noting that both Perl and Python have "spiritual" sides to them.

Phipps then entertained questions from the audience for about 10 minutes, handling such red-button issues as why doesn't Sun open source Java and why Sun doesn't join Eclipse. His answer to the first was that he believes Sun has open sourced Java. To the second, he replied that it was because Sun and IBM are competing in that space.


  • Open Source
Click Here!