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Java six votes away from being rejected by U.S. ISO contingent

Sun's control of the Java specification has raised concerns within the JTC 1 TAG -- the body will form the U.S. policy on Java standardization through the ISO

By Robert McMillan

May  1997
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The United States will vote against Sun Microsystems' application to standardize Java through the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) if six more members of the 38-member Technical Advisory Group developing the U.S. position decide to vote against it.

The Technical Advisory Group (JTC 1 TAG) for the ISO's Joint Technical Committee (JTC 1) is composed of government departments, national associations, and vendors who will vote to determine whether or not the U.S. membership of the JTC 1 supports or rejects Sun's application at its June 4-6 meeting in the Washington, D.C. area. According to the JTC 1 TAG rules, "approval by at least two-thirds of those present, excluding abstentions" is required. At present, seven voting members have publicly come out against the proposal, as have Microsoft and Intel -- who signed up for the JTC 1 TAG after Sun's move to standardize. Microsoft and Intel won't get voting rights until the end of August at the earliest, according to Jennifer Garner, the JTC 1 TAG administration manager. And though Microsoft and Intel won't get voting rights by the June meeting, they are allowed to participate in the JTC 1 TAG discussions and have made their comments in opposition to Sun public (See Resources below).

Sources within the ISO say that 12 JTC 1 TAG members have expressed support for the plan -- eight of them publicly. So with the count presently 12 for and seven against, Sun is a little shy of the two-thirds it must get to pass JTC 1 TAG muster.

The JTC 1 TAG vote represents just one of the thirty-odd countries that will be voting on the proposal. So even without JTC 1 TAG blessing, Sun's proposal could easily go through. The American National Standards Institute's JTC 1 administrator Lisa Rajchel says that a two-thirds majority vote in the international balloting is required for the JTC 1 to accept Sun Microsystems as what is called a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) submitter. PAS submitter status would mean that Sun would be the body that handed off finished parts of the Java specification to the JTC 1 for standardization. The international balloting ends on July 14, 1997. Rajchel says that results would be announced a few weeks later.

By ISO standards, the JTC 1 and its PAS submitter status is relatively new. Rajchel says that only a few organizations have applied for this status. To date four have been accepted and none of them is a single vendor. According to JavaSoft, the JTC 1 TAG has traditionally been opposed to the idea of individual companies as PAS submitters. Two years ago, they say, the JTC 1 voted on whether one company could even become a PAS submitter, and the U.S.'s JTC 1 TAG was the only entity to reject the idea outright. Comments rejecting Sun's application seem to reinforce this position. For example, Ben Bennett, the JTC 1 tag representative for AMP Inc. wrote in his April 30, 1997 comments, "It is AMP's opinion that individual companies should not be approved as PAS submitters."

Trademark worries are also a stumbling block. Some vendors have voiced concerns about Sun's plan to retain all of its Java-related trademarks. Referring to Sun's application, Apple's JTC 1 TAG representative Dave Michael writes, "It is inappropriate for a single for-profit company to maintain complete control over a trademark associated with an international standard. Standards are intended to be free from such encumbrances."

Sun has until the June JTC 1 TAG meeting to respond to such concerns and to convince the voting members that its intentions are good. Apparently it has already begun to do just that. In a May 9 comment sent to the JTC 1 TAG administrator, the above-mentioned Bennett reversed his position on the proposal, writing "current evidence indicates that the market acceptance of this particular proposal overshadows the concern for openness and due process and therefore should be considered for the PAS process." Sources within JavaSoft say that more such reversals are expected.

Tallying the votes

In favor of Sun's application to be a JTC 1 PAS submitter:

  1. AMP Inc.
  2. Digital Equipment Corp.
  3. IBM Corp.
  4. Lucent Technologies
  5. Sun Microsystems
  6. Unisys Corp
  7. US Department of Defense/DISA
  8. Xerox Corp.


  1. Apple Computer Inc.
  2. Compaq Computer Corp
  3. Electronic Industries Association
  4. Hewlett-Packard Co.
  5. IEEE
  6. NCITS
  7. Texas Instruments, Inc.

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