Gosling Holds Court on Standards

Discusses topics from Web services and .Net strategy to Sun and Microsoft.

James Gosling, the father of Java and a fellow at Sun Microsystems Inc., paid a visit to the Software Development Conference and Expo East last month, making a call for standards—and taking a few shots at Microsoft Corp. in the process.

Gosling delivered a keynote address at the show here and spent a session with the press answering questions about everything under the sun.

With Web services a hot topic, Gosling addressed the issue and in the process gave credit to Sun rival Microsoft for its stewardship of Web services standards.

"Microsoft is in front of the game right now in that theyve made commitments to standards, and if they honor those commitments, it will be good for the industry and for interoperability," Gosling said. "But if you read any of the e-mails from the court cases, its obvious that Microsoft hates interoperability."

Meanwhile, Gosling defended Suns own efforts. He said the company, of Palo Alto, Calif., has received a bad rap for the lack of XML support in the J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) platform. Criticism over its apparent lack of XML support is "a misunderstanding," he said. J2EE 1.3 "runs on top of JDK [Java Development Kit] 1.4, [which] has all the XML APIs in it. So its more a matter of naming," he said. "The Java system is architected to be very modular so you can drop things in."

Gosling also spoke of Microsofts .Net strategy and its Java-like C# language, saying C# and Microsofts memory model around C and C++ is unsafe. "C# has this unsafe access facility," he said. "The C and C++ memory model strikes a bullet through the heart of Microsofts CLR [Common Language Runtime] strategy."

C and C++ enable developers to exploit weaknesses in systems, he said. "You can get around any interface; that is intrinsic in C and C++," Gosling said. However, "in Java, I took the position that the integrity of interfaces had to be respected," he said. "And that translated to be a big deal in security and reliability."

Gosling said Microsoft, of Redmond, Wash., has three main things going for it: "easy-to-use tools, an unbelievable marketing budget and a desktop monopoly."

Yet Gosling said very few tools actually help really adept programmers develop software. "If you look behind the back of a developer at work, youll probably notice hes not using some fancy new tool or [integrated development environment] but a text editor," he said. And often that text editor is Emacs, which Gosling helped create some 20 years ago. He said he is amazed that Emacs has not evolved very much in all these years.

Goslings keynote was titled "The Future of Open, End-to-End Software Systems" and highlighted a few of his favorite Java systems. One for the Brazilian National Healthcare system contains "a big pile of Enterprise JavaBeans," he said. The system runs on five national server farms that look at 12 million people in 44 cities, he said.

The Brazilian National Healthcare system has about 10 million lines of code, Gosling said. The organization plans to turn its software over to the open-source movement, he said.

"Its like 10 million lines of code," he said. "I dont know what SourceForge would do with this," he quipped. SourceForge.net is an open-source software repository maintained by VA Software Corp.