Sun Microsystems chairman and CEO Scott McNealy invited open-source developers to submit changes for Java under open-source licenses during a keynote speech at JavaOne yesterday.

Developers will be able to submit changes for the platform, receiving financial support from Sun for their projects. The invitation could be seen as echoing Apple’s move toward embracing and encouraging open standards within Darwin and Mac OS X.

Sun is working with the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), maker of the popular Apache Server, to refine the procedures for open-source modifications of Java.

The changes are designed to address issues that have challenged open-source companies looking to certify their products as Java compatible through the JCP (Java Community Process) that governs the standard’s maturation. The JCP is has an executive committee on which Apple has a seat.

Support staff to aid developers Companies have been shy of submitting open changes for Java because of licensing issues, confidentiality concerns, and the costs associated with running compatibility tests, said Jason Hunter, vice president of the ASF, joining McNealy on-stage.

As a response to some of these concerns, all Sun-led JSRs (Java Specification Requests) for standardizing a feature through the JCP can be submitted under the open-source license. In addition, test kits may be presented under these same licenses, Hunter said.

Sun will also dedicate part of its support staff to helping open-source developers and academic institutions build new features for Java.

“I believe we have just made the Java community tighter and much broader with one move,” McNealy said.

The company has long been under the watch of developers who were concerned about how much control it exerts over a technology used by myriad others. Sun, however, had voiced worries about the fragmentation of Java due to incompatible implementations of the technology from outside parties.

With the move, the company may have assuaged some of the developers’ fears and found a way to tap the talents of the Java community and open-source programmers as a whole.