I recently made my way up to Red Sox nation for Sun Microsystems Tech Days. The two-day event was all about Suns direction with Java and Solaris, as well as with the companys tools and management software. But, as the event was held in the heart of Boston, I couldnt get away from the Red Sox and their rabid fans.
Why was this an issue? Well, Im from Baltimore, home of the hapless Orioles, and just the week before Id suffered the ignominy of being outnumbered and out-cheered by Red Sox fans at my home teams ballpark, Camden Yards. In fact, I went to the game with a Sox-head—Doug Levin, CEO of Black Duck Software, based in none other than Waltham, Mass.—who reveled in the Os 7-6 loss that night to the American League East-leading Red Sox.
So when Brian Leonard, an evangelist for Suns NetBeans tools, put up a slide showing the Red Sox logo and introduced James Gosling, the creator of Java, as "the Big Papi of Java," I quietly groaned. At the game Id gone to, Red Sox DH David Ortiz, also known affectionately as Big Papi by the locals, had smashed a towering homer to right field that nearly hit the warehouse that frames the entrance to Camden Yards.
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However, the description was fitting, as Gosling was definitely the draw of the event desk and his keynote was standing room only.
He did indeed create Java, but Gosling is a laid-back, modest sort of guy. In an interview, I asked him what he thought about being introduced as the Big Papi of Java. Gosling shrugged and said that after all these years, "Java has many parents." Yes, but it had to start somewhere, I suggested. He agreed.
Despite the modesty, Gosling is proud of the ubiquity of Java. Meanwhile, Gosling touted the improvements in the upcoming versions of NetBeans and Suns Glassfish application server.
And he discussed Suns recent move to change its stock ticker symbol from SUNW to JAVA. He said Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz asked his advice, but he would not say exactly what he told Schwartz, other than to say he was not sure what impact the change would have. He did tell me he was surprised to see that the change had had a positive impact. However, "a lot of people who had been at Sun for a long time, and a lot of people who had been long-time Sun customers, didnt like it," he said.
In a separate discussion, Gosling made something of a shocking admission: Back in a time when Sun was suffering some uncertainty, Gosling said he tested enemy waters.
"Shortly before Java launched, I was sort of depressed about Sun and what was going to happen, and I went and interviewed at Microsoft," he said, adding that he eventually came to his senses. "Part of it was I had a bunch of folks Id known from grad school whod gone to Microsoft and took me out to the bar, and it was like, Uh, no."
Gosling then got into a brief discussion about the corporate cultures of some of the industrys leading companies. He noted that be believes Microsoft has a difficult time ahead. Yet, "it doesnt matter what they do; we have to worry about them a lot," he said. "But they dont induce the panic that they used to." Of Google, Gosling said: "I guess part of me has almost a moral problem with, What do you mean the killer app for Internet is advertising? Id love to believe it was all about building communities on the Web. But building communities is just a scam for getting people to pay for advertising. Search is just a scam to get people to pay for advertising. I know the Google folks actually resisted doing advertising for a long time. They didnt like the idea, but they had to have a spreadsheet solve to a positive number." However, said Gosling, "it seems like Google is flailing right now. Theyre trying lots of things that are interesting, but whether theyre going to turn into viable businesses is really hard to know."
And on Googles seemingly non-stop hiring spree, Gosling said: "Right now, their hiring isnt growth; its cancer. Theres just no way you can continue to grow at those rates without being totally self-destructive."
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