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By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2002-09-20 Print this article Print

: Interview With James Gosling"> eWEEK: Whats your stance on the GPL (GNU General Public License for open source software)? Gosling: There are all of these open-source licenses out there. They pretty much all have their own political agenda. Sun has its own. The one we use for Java is really about compatibility. The GPL one is, I find, rather odd because it has this string socialist agenda that basically says intellectual property is bad. I think its perfectly fine for people to say, "I want to give my stuff away for free." When it turns into, "Nobody else should be able to make profit off of intellectual property," I start to have a hard time with it. And the core of my hard time with it is its sort of like a physics argument about conservation of energy. It takes an awful lot of energy to produce software. Somehow or other that has to be matched. The energy that comes out as software, somethings got to go in—if only to pay the salaries of the people who are working on the software. And you can have all kinds of indirect models and all the rest of it, but somehow or other it has to happen. Thermal dynamics and energy conservation laws have been absolutely strong, and theyre that way in economics as well.
And the GPL version of the universe, where everything is free and essentially no software engineer can get a job doing software engineering because theres no money in software engineering, I sort of have a hard time with.
I have a certain sympathy about it because I think that there are ways in which the software industry gets really out of control. And intellectual property can be abused, but theres a midpoint somewhere in there that is much more balanced. eWEEK: What do you expect next for Java? Gosling: Well, there are a whole lot of different directions. Certainly the enterprise stuff is going to carry on and continue to be a very big thing. The interesting bit for me these days has been whats been going on at the edges and getting all the different kinds of devices becoming participating parts of the Internet. Thats things like cell phones, which are pretty much everywhere but North America, to more interesting devices. People are increasingly putting things like gas pumps and light bulbs and automobiles and random other things on the Internet. People do some pretty cool things. eWEEK: The fact that Sun now has one person entirely in charge of software, what does that say to you? Will it mean anything different or will it mean just business as usual? Gosling: Its sort of a bit of both. The company has really been solidifying the three legs of our software effort: Solaris, Java and the product world—or the software we sell for money world, the thing that used to be called iPlanet that is now Sun ONE [Open Net Environment]. And the company has had very heavy commitment to all of those for quite a long time. Weve been putting a lot into Solaris for the entire lifetime of the company. And Javas been getting pretty central attention for almost 10 years now. And Sun ONEs internally been a big thing for a couple of years. And having them all together is something of a new thing and it should be interesting to see how that goes out. A lot of what we would like to do is try to exploit the synergies between them, like how can we do things like improve Solaris to support Java better. And Java is in kind of a unique position because we have a pretty heavy obligation to the community to maintain fairly strict fairness across platforms. So that adds a layer of complexity. We often divide our Java work into two camps. Internally were referred to as church and state. The church side is the people who are trying to service the industry, and the state side is the people who are allowed to charge money. The thing that has been changing has been Suns increasing focus on software, and increasing commitment to software. eWEEK: I tried to avoid the obligatory Microsoft-vs.-Sun questions, but has there always been support for SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] within Sun or did Sun decide to go along grudgingly? Gosling: As always, these things are a mixed bag. We were really the original instigators behind XML, and weve had a string commitment to XML for quite a long time. SOAP—which is kind of taking XML, gluing it together with HTTP and calling it a remote message passing system—is definitely a Microsoft thing. And it has its good aspects and its bad aspects. At Sun, we tend to evaluate these things technically and come to a technical opinion. And then theres also the competitive thing. And in general we try to support our customers with what theyre interested in. And one of the things that has always been very important for Sun as a company is interoperability with everything. And since Microsoft was pretty clearly doing SOAP pretty heavily, we had to be able to interoperate with that. Since they used XML, which is fairly near and dear to our hearts, it wasnt all that big a deal. There are clearly technologies that Microsoft has come up with that we have thought were pretty horrific, like the whole Hailstorm thing. We were all pretty appalled at that. But that wasnt really a technology comment, that was a business plan comment. And as near as I can tell, just about the rest of the world who scratched that thing discovered there was something that they really disliked underneath.

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.

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