Forte is a high-end development tool. We should be thankful the open source community will have access to it. And the fact this is a Java tool is good news as it should encourage developers to build open source applications in Java.
But the real issue is not whether Forte is open source. The Forte environment is unlikely to benefit from being part of the community. Why? The Netscape Navigator Web browser has become a successful part of the open source community. But I fear there is a good chance Forte will fail to attract the large numbers of open source users and developers that supported Netscape Navigator.
Arguably, Sun's decision may help existing Forte developers who, in theory, would be able to customise the development tool to suit their needs. But I would reason Forte is already highly customisable. Being a member of the open source community does not change that in any way.
And furthermore, experts are saying the version of the Forte Java tool being given away as open source is a cut-down version, which begs the question: why would existing Forte developers use the "dumbed down" open source version. They probably wouldn't.
So does Sun truly wish to participate in open source development? For me, giving away Forte is not the right approach. I cannot see it having the same impact as if Sun had said it would give away Java.
I am sure developers would welcome such a decision. An open source Java could flourish with great minds working on it - free from the licensing constraints of Sun's existing community source licence.
If Sun fears Java would splinter if it were open source it should look to Linux. Here, the open source model works because participants work towards a common goal.
The community operates as a democracy, voting in which new features to support and disregard, minimising the affect of any splintering. It makes sense to give Java to the open source community. Let us hope Sun sees the light.
This was first published in March 2000