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IBM is calling Sun Microsystems Inc.’s bluff and asking the Java steward to join in developing an open-source implementation of Java.

The Armonk, N.Y., company made the proposal in an open letter to Sun last week. Sun officials said they planned to meet with IBM to discuss the merits of working with IBM on an independent project. “Sun is closely evaluating the effectiveness of the process,” a Sun official said.

“IBM has been calling on Sun for years to open up Java because it will spur innovation,” said an IBM official. “Now IBM is throwing down the gauntlet.”

Rod Smith, vice president of emerging Internet technologies at IBM, sent the letter last week to Rob Gingell, Sun’s chief engineer, vice president and fellow. Citing as the catalyst an eWEEK interview with Sun’s chief technology evangelist, Simon Phipps—in which Phipps asked, “Why hasn’t IBM given its implementation of Java to the open-source community?”—Smith said IBM is ready to work with Sun on an open-source Java.

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