IBM's Rod Smith sent an open note to Sun today about open sourcing Java. i've known Rod for quite some time now - super nice guy, always wears black jeans and black t-shirts - and it's interesting to think about *why* IBM chose this particular point in time to send the letter.
MS is doing some good work with .NET and CLR, and they can innovate quickly with C#. the Zen/Omega stuff is a good example of this, supporting native XML data types and manipulation at the language level. imagine what C# will be like in a couple of years with a bunch of enhancements like this. especially if they open up the language framework to allow new enhancements to be "plugged in" as options rather than baked into the language (one of my pet topics).
i think that IBM understands very well where C# is *going* (rather than just where it is today), and wants the freedom to evolve Java at a similar pace. if it loses this ability, then C#/CLR will be the primary hotbed of evolution for the foreseeable future.
i've heard that IBM has created a CLR implementation. it would be interesting if it could also execute Java byte codes (technically possible). this would allow IBM to support Java and C# with the same VM, and then get behind C# as the vehicle of language innovation. Java code and C# code could seamlessly interoperate, IBM could team with MS to evolve the C# language, and future versions of WebSphere could be ported to C# to take advantage of future enhancements.
i can easily see a future where IBM aligns behind MS and CLR/C# instead of pushing Java, basically giving up on Sun to release control of Java and allows its more rapid evolution. sounds odd? well, IBM and MS are certainly tag-teaming effectively on the WS-* specifications! note that this doesn't mean that IBM would support the MS libraries, such as ASP.NET. my bet is that IBM would create an alternative set of components to compete against the .NET libraries, and make these components run everywhere, including of course good ol' Linux.
it will be interesting to see how this unfolds!