Gosling, Java's creator, joins Google

And, Oracle, with its anti-Google Android Java lawsuits can't be happy.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

James Gosling, the creator of Java, has joined Google. Oracle, which bought Sun, Gosling's former company, must hate this.

I always thought Oracle buying Sun was a dumb idea. While you can argue that, there can't be any argument that Oracle/Sun quickly lost its leading open-source lights such as Gosling, XML co-inventor Tim Bray, and Simon Phipps, Sun's chief open source officer. Since the purchase, Oracles seems intent on monetizing Java by suing Google, among others, for Java patent violations rather than producing new code or products.

Oracle may regret that approach. Gosling himself has said that many of Sun's patents were jokes. Gosling wrote, on August 15th, 2010, "In Sun's early history, we didn't think much of patents. While there's a kernel of good sense in the reasoning for patents, the system itself has gotten goofy. Sun didn't file many patents initially. But then we got sued by IBM for violating the 'RISC patent' - a patent that essentially said "if you make something simpler, it'll go faster". Seemed like a blindingly obvious notion that shouldn't have been patentable, but we got sued, and lost. The penalty was huge. Nearly put us out of business. We survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge. Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure. There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. My entry wasn't nearly the goofiest."

Gosling added, "Don't interpret any of my comments as support for Oracle's suit. There are no guiltless parties with white hats in this little drama. This skirmish isn't much about patents or principles or programming languages. The suit is far more about ego, money and power." That said, Gosling is now working for Google.

Interesting isn't it? At his new job, Gosling wrote, "I don't know what I'll be working on. I expect it'll be a bit of everything, seasoned with a large dose of grumpy curmudgeon."

I'm sure he'll be working on bringing more rhyme and reason to Android. Indeed, in his comments about patents, Gosling also wrote, Google "had very weak notions of interoperability, which, given our history, we strongly objected to. Android has pretty much played out the way that we feared: there is enough fragmentation among Android handsets to significantly restrict the freedom of software developers." Besides that though I'm sure he'll be helping Google against Oracle's patent lawsuit. After all, if Java's own creator declares in the courtroom that the Sun/Oracle patents were 'goofy," that won't help Oracle's case one bit.

I'm not the only one who sees it that way. Jay Lyman, senior analyst for The 451 Group, an industry analysis company, told me, "Without knowing exactly what he will be doing at Google, I have no doubt that hiring James Gosling is certainly good for Google. It may be similarly good for open Java, given Gosling's credibility and support in the enterprise programming world. This may not be as good for Oracle, which lost Gosling from Sun Microsystems when it acquired the open source-heavy company, given Gosling has referenced Oracle's early questioning and thinking on the opportunity to sue over Java, which it has done."

Stephen O'Grady, analyst and co-founder of Red Monk, the developer-oriented analysis firm, said, "First, not that we had indications otherwise, but this cements the notion that Java remains a pillar of Google's technology stack. It begs the question, as well, of where he might be able to help them extend the role of Java from a product offering perspective. The real wild card, however, is the potential role of Gosling in the ongoing Google/Oracle litigation. Not only was Gosling instrumental in the creation of the technology itself, he was--by his own account--involved in the post-Sun acquisition pre-litigation process with Oracle."

Last, but never least, Dan Kusnetzky, distinguished analyst, head of the Kusnetzky Group and ZDNet's virtualization blogger, added "Many are complaining that Oracle has not really be a responsive or collaborative member of the Java community. It would make sense that 'Mr. Java' would prefer to join and organization that better understands working with communities for mutual and joint gain."

In short, as O'Grady told me: "Interesting hire." Why yes, yes it is. Were I Oracle, I'd be worried.

See Also:

Oracle vs. Google over Java: Android lawsuits may begin to pile up

Why software patents are a joke, literally

Microsoft vs. Android

Android Linux FUD Debunked

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