Dave Winer's shrewd take on James Gosling's reaction to a Free Java : Sun doesn't want to risk being taken out of the loop.
They don't want someone to fork Java and take leadership. After all, without Java, who are Sun now? Just A.N.Other commodity work-station manufacturer / consulting business. It's their identity that's at stake here.
Of course, I think the whole thing is a tragic waste of resources. Re-inventing Java to pass all the compatibility tests is huge effort, which people would be better spending on some more worthwhile aim.
But if that's the itch they want to scratch ...
Update : Being fair, Gosling may have a point about the tests. A lot of them are there to protect Sun from legal attacks. And Sun could be hurt badly by patent violating code creeping into the standard.
Also, I like this :
But doesn't a language that's taken for granted risk losing its vitality and being overtaken by the next great language? "If there isn't a next great language, it says something really tragic about the evolution of computing technology and human civilization," Gosling said.
Does he see any on the horizon that might fit the bill? "I guess I haven't seen any out there yet that get me all excited," he said. "The world is filled with low-performance scripting languages, which I have a hard time getting excited about."