Google's Instantiations Buy Is a Win for Java, Smalltalk

Google's acquisition of the Java and Ajax technology and assets from Instantiations is a win both for Google and its Java tooling future, as well as for Smalltalk developers the world over.

Google acquired the highly regarded Java and Ajax tools business, including the company's Eclipse team, from Instantiations for an undisclosed amount. Instantiations made its name (and revenue) selling tools for Java developers as well as for Smalltalk developers. Now, with the proceeds of the sale, Instantiations' CEO Mike Taylor said he and the Smalltalk side of the company will hold onto the Instantiations name and work to grow the Smalltalk business.

Google gets a proven team of developers, including several seasoned veterans of the Eclipse community. Instantiations was a founding member of the Eclipse Foundation and Taylor's name has been nearly synonymous with Eclipse, as he has held various positions of authority in the organization.

In a Twitter "Tweet" about the acquisition, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, said, "I am thrilled for the Instantiations team. The Google acquisition is great news for the Eclipse community as well."

However, it was the company's move to support Google's platform and in particular the Google Web Toolkit (GWT) that clearly caught Google's eye. At the most recent Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco, Instantiations released an updated version of its GWT Designer, GWT Designer version 7.5. GWT Designer helps developers rapidly create GUIs in Eclipse and GWT/Java and then deploy them as Web applications, without having to learn JavaScript.

In a letter to Instantiations' customers, Taylor said:

"In brief, we have entered into an agreement with Google in which they have purchased our highly regarded Java products, technology, and business. Our VA Smalltalk business, products, personnel...and commitment...continue independent and uninterrupted, except that now the new Instantiations (yes, we kept the name) will focus exclusively on Smalltalk!

"This may be the most significant news our VA Smalltalk community has experienced since Instantiations and IBM joined forces in 2005--a relationship that remains strong and unchanged as we move forward."

Taylor further explained in his letter that he will continue as president and CEO of the new Smalltalk-focused Instantiations. Founder Eric Clayberg will join Google, but will also continue as a director/board member, technical advisor and major shareholder of Instantiations. Principal Smalltalk architect John O'Keefe will assume an even stronger role guiding the technical development and advancement of the company's VA Smalltalk technology. And Chuck Shawan will continue working with customers as Instantiations' vice president of sales.

Meanwhile, during a conference call with customers on Aug. 5, Taylor could hardly contain his glee over the opportunity the sale of the Java assets creates for himself and the team he helped put together.

"We're extremely excited about both halves of this new development for the company," Taylor said. "We're excited for our Java business to go to Google - an excellent home it. And the Smalltalk group is excited about being in a new mode where we can focus on Smalltalk."

Clayberg added: "We're very excited by the way things have happened and also happy that Instantiations will continue to go forward and grow the Smalltalk business, and continue to be funded."

Indeed, "Our plan is to leverage some of the money we've all made in the Google transaction" to keep the Smalltalk business rolling, Taylor said. However, "our Smalltalk business is showing significant revenue growth year-over-year since we got it," he added. The business has been profitable and self-sustaining, he said. And to quell any concerns about the future of the business, Taylor ensured customers that he and his leadership are not just geeks (despite Taylor personally having been coding Smalltalk since 1984). "We see this as a viable business, and we plan to make it work." he said, adding, "We both have MBAs, and Eric's is from Harvard. We're confident we can not just keep this alive but grow it."

Taylor said he expects to gain some converts from IBM's and Cincom's Smalltalk platforms. In addition to being a founding member of Eclipse, Instantiations also was a founding member of the Smalltalk Industry Council.

Meanwhile, asked why Google did not acquire Instantiations' Smalltalk business, Taylor said although he could not speak for Google, "Google is a very large company and they have their own visions and ambitions. Java is only one of many technologies they're involved in. They're looking at their world and they said they needed some more Java expertise. They weren't ready to bite off a whole -nother new technology. They wanted something they could immediately leverage."

Although some outlets have described Instantiations as a "startup," that is far from the case -- the company was founded in 1997 and has offices in Portland, Ore., and Raleigh, N.C. Rather, Instantiations has toiled as a band of software craftsmen turning out tools to help developers' work faster, easier and more productively. Instantiations also is an IBM Business Partner. With a line of products for Eclipse, IBM Rational, JBuilder and MyEclipse, the company is named as one the fastest-growing Oregon companies four years running. And while other such companies have folded, fortunately for Taylor and his crew, Google took notice. Hats off.