Re: OT : Making money from Java
- From: Waldek Hebisch <hebisch@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 21 Nov 2005 06:22:23 +0000 (UTC)
James J. Gavan <jgavandeletethis@xxxxxxx> wrote:
> It's Judson's thread about Micro Focus compiler fees/runtime which
> triggered this one in my mind.
> If Java is FREE can somebody explain how Sun Microsystems makes its
> money from the language ?
You should note that the word "free" has two meaning here:
1) can you get Java implementation free of charge?
2) can you do what you want with the implementation?
Sun Java is distributed free of charge, but is not free in the second
sense. In fact, the main motivation for Sun to distribute Java free of
charge is to have a platform which they (at least partially) control.
Namely, there is Java the language and Java Virtual Machine (JVM). JVM
is quite similar to an operationg system: it offers numer of services
to the running program. The program can not run if JVM services are
not present. Sun designed JVM to be "portable": JVM can run on multiple
processors and on top of various operationg systems. In effect, JVM
can serve as a portability layer, making underlying operationg system
Why this matters for Sun: ATM about 90% desktop machines run operating
systems form Microsoft. Historically, Microsoft used its position as
operating system vendor to promote its own application (see for example
Netscape accusations). So a vendor either has to be independent of
Microsoft OS or risk unfair competition. Like all major software vendors
Sun can not just ignore 90% of desktop market. But JVM allows to be
independent of Microsoft and still deliver on Microsoft platforms. The
same problem affects other companes, so they teamed with Sun to promote
Now, for this tactic to be effective JVM has to be popular, so Sun is
willing to distribute copies free of charge. They (and other companies
too) distribute may development tools for Java free of charge, again
this is part of their tactic to make JVM popular.
Note that Sun retains much control over Java (they had exclusive control,
but gave up part of to to other companies). One example may be "native"
Java compilers: it makes perfect sense to compile Java program into
native executables. One can gain some speed in this way, but more important,
the program is then independent of JVM. In particular, native compiler
would allow small "standalone" Java executables (important if you want
to minimize dowload size and suspect that the recipient has no (or incorrect)
JVM). But you will not get such a beast from Sun: this goes against their
To put thing in more general perspective: compilers are relatively small
programs, which require moderate amount of work to create. Namely, a toy
compiler can be built in a few days, small usable one in few months.
Mature compiler accumulates features (and code) over longer period so
it is more likely to represent few man years and industrial leader
may represent hundreds of man years. But the the law of diminishing
returns works strongly here: extra features take most of the effort.
OTOH compilers play pretty crucial way in software developement, so
there is motivation to create new ones.
Coming back to question of "free" software: the one who controls
software controls the society. Namely, quite a lot of things in
our life is controlled by software. For example, if a mailing program
does not allow a user to send e-mail to some address, it means that
the user can not send e-mail to this address. Of course, the user
may seek workarounds (for example use another program), but is
software in controlled by a single entity which deliberatly put some
limitation, then it may happen that there is no workaround and even
if there is one the control still may be quite effective. Also,
if software restricts information presented to the user, the
user may even not notice that the control is present.
Some people belive that ability to modify software is very important
for our freedom. One of the persons who quite early formulated
such view was Richard Stallman:
You may find ideas above controversial: some people strongly object the
very idea, other accept the idea but disagree with Stallman on many
details. But there is a number of people who volunteered their time to
write software motivated by the idea.
Note, that making _all_ software free would work against current
software houses. But part of Stallman's idea was peacefull coexistence
with closed-source software. So, free software can be used by
commercial companies as long as they do not try to turn it into non-free
software. In particular GNU C compiler was originally written by Stallman,
but now it contains many contribution from firms like IBM and Apple.
- OT : Making money from Java
- From: James J. Gavan
- OT : Making money from Java
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