IBM's relationship with Sun Microsystems remains strong, despite Sun's decision not to pass development of Java technology to a standards body, sources close to both companies say.

Rumours abound that IBM is talking secretly with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, apparently pondering a split from Sun. This would threaten to create a Java implementation separate from that coming out of the Java Community Process (JCP). Late last year, Sun made the decision not to pass development of Java to the European Computer Manufacturers' Association, choosing to have that work carried out through the JCP.

A source familiar with IBM's stance claims that such talks have never taken place, and that the company is attempting to iron out its disagreements with Sun. Disagreements are centred around licensing agreements related to branding issues.

"There's no truth in (the rumours of a separatist group including IBM and Microsoft) whatsoever," the source said. "IBM is still committed to Java, has invested a lot in Java, and isn't going to resolve any issue without first hearing what the other party has to say."

A second source suggests IBM will not have to wait long to hear what Sun officials have to say. IBM is reportedly one of several that will attend a meeting later this week with Sun's George Paolini, recently appointed as vice president of Java Community Development.

Details of what will be discussed at the meeting have yet to be disclosed, but sources suggest the thrust of Paolini's pitch will be how Sun can work better with other companies to ensure that the Java Community Process remains open, cooperative, and vital.

While IBM is a staunch supporter of coordinated, cross-vendor Java technology efforts, the largest of the Java community members remains unenthusiastic about paying for branding, leaving the door open to continued political positioning.