In an exclusive interview with eWEEK, Java creator James Gosling discusses a series of issues he earlier declined to take public, including why he left Oracle.
FRANCISCO - When James Gosling led the team that created the Java language and
platform, Sun Microsystems was riding high and Java stood as a
landscape-changing revolutionary technology, but financial realities eventually
brought Sun to its knees and Oracle entered in as a potential savior--saying
all the right things, but behind the scenes, as far as Gosling was concerned,
doing all the wrong ones.
Gosling created Java, a feat that many would assume would demand some modicum
of respect, but instead, from Oracle, Gosling says all he got was the opposite.
In an exclusive interview with eWEEK, Gosling came clean about why he left
Oracle and what he thinks of the company's stewardship of his creation going
his April blog post announcing his resignation, Gosling would only say, "As to
why I left, it's difficult to answer: Just about anything I could say that
would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good." However, over
dinner with eWEEK in San Francisco
during the week of Oracle's
first JavaOne conference - held concurrently with Oracle OpenWorld here -
Gosling went a bit deeper, telling a tale of low-balling key employees and
cutting off at the knees projects and strategies Sun had put into play.
is actually a long list of things that played into my leaving Oracle," Gosling
said. "There were things like my salary offer. After getting my offer from them
I tried to figure out what my compensation would be like on my W-2 form and it
was a major hit. They copied my base salary [from Sun]," he said. However, at
Sun, any executive that was a vice president or above was given what amounted
to a bump or bonus based on the performance of the company. "In a mediocre year
you did OK, but in a good year you did great" in terms of this compensation, he
Oracle spokeswoman said the company had no comment on Gosling's claims.
"For the privilege of working for Oracle, they wanted me to take a big pay cut,"
in itself was not a showstopper. Indeed, given that constraint, Gosling moved on
with his employment with the database giant. However, another annoyance arose
when, according to Gosling, Oracle did not have a notion of a senior engineer
or at least one equivalent to Gosling's grade at Sun, where he was a fellow.
"In my job offer, they had me at a fairly significant grade level down," he
even that was not the final factor in leading to his decision to leave the
company. Perhaps the final straw was what Gosling said was Oracle's move to
rein him in. indeed they owned Sun and thus Java, so they also owned its
creator and his intellectual property, so it was up to Oracle to decide what
Gosling or anybody else had to say about Java.
ability to decide anything at Oracle was minimized," Gosling said. "Oracle is
an extremely micromanaged company. So myself and my peers in the Java area were
not allowed to decide anything. All of our authority to decide anything
bent Gosling's resolve like a wishbone in the hands of two eager siblings in
mid-pull after Thanksgiving dinner, but even that didn't break it. What
ultimately snapped the wishbone and made Gosling want to holler and throw up
his hands Marvin-Gaye style was that "My job seemed to be to get up on stage
and be a public presence for Java for Oracle. I'm from the wrong Myers-Briggs
quadrant for that," he said.
to that sentiment that Gosling already had the sense that Oracle was "ethically
challenged" and he said he had simply had enough, and decided not to work there
if the onstage part of the deal made him feel like baseball Hall of Famer
Willie Mays signing autographs at San Francisco Giants events and other venues,
Gosling said: "Well, Willie liked that stuff. I didn't."
asked whether in hindsight he would have preferred Sun having been acquired by IBM
(which pursued a deal to acquire Sun and then backed out late in the game)
rather than Oracle, Gosling said he and at least Sun Chairman Scott McNealy
debated the prospect. And the consensus, led by McNealy, was that although they
said they believed "Oracle would be more savage, IBM
would make more layoffs."
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.