SQL Zone is brought to you in partnership with:

Mitch Pronschinske is the Lead Research Analyst at DZone. Researching and compiling content for DZone's research guides is his primary job. He likes to make his own ringtones, watches cartoons/anime, enjoys card and board games, and plays the accordion. Mitch is a DZone Zone Leader and has posted 2578 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

A Surprisingly Candid Interview with James Gosling - Why He Left Oracle

09.22.2010
| 11035 views |
  • submit to reddit
Continuing the annual traditionan, Darryl Taft got his exclusive interview with Java father James Gosling during this year's JavaOne.  It was a surprisingly candid interview in which Gosling finally explained all of the reasons behind his departure from Oracle.

One of his stories, even though it wasn't a primary reason behind his departure, truly illustrated the nastiness of Oracle during the Sun employees' transition.  In Gosling's story, he had started a plan to rent out the Great America amusement park for Sun employees to boost morale with a day of fun.  Scott McNealy and Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz both signed off on it and the cost was well under budget.  The money had already been spent when Oracle Co-President Safra Catz heard about it and "had a fit," according to Gosling.  Apparently, Oracle doesn't allow employee appreciation events.  That's not the 'Oracle Way.'

This whole new power structure ultimately led to the disillusionment of Gosling and many other senior developers at Sun.  From the interview, I gleaned that there were four straws that broke Gosling's back:

  • He essentially took a pay cut by losing an annual bonus based on company performance
  • Oracle did not share Sun's concept of 'senior engineers' at the fellow level, so Gosling was technically demoted
  • Gosling and his peers no longer had any influence as decision makers; Oracle was "extremely micromanaged"
  • Oracle mainly wanted Gosling to be a figure-head for Java and Oracle

Taft says that even though Gosling may have gotten more rewards for his technical abilities and contributions to software development if IBM had acquired Sun instead, Gosling told him that Sun feared more layoffs if IBM was in charge.  We'll never know if this did prevent layoffs since they happened anyway under Oracle.

Gosling's comments certainly were not a vote of confidence for the "ethically challenged" Oracle work environment, but on the other hand he didn't express any cynicism about the future of Java under Oracle.  He's not worried because much of Oracle's business depends on Java, and he says there's only so much damage they can do.  "It's in their best interest to treat it well," he said.

You can read more about the interview at eWeek.com.

You should also check out the Basement Coders' podcast interview with Gosling.
Tags:

Comments

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 5:42am

  • He essentially took a pay cut by losing an annual bonus based on company performance
If you consider Sun's performance since 2000 he shouldn't even have noticed. Or maybe Oracle just made the bonus reflect actual performance and not some wishful thinking?

  • Oracle did not share Sun's concept of 'senior engineers' at the fellow level, so Gosling was technically demoted
I'm afraid to even try and imagine how horribly his ego must have suffered.

  • Gosling and his peers no longer had any influence as decision makers; Oracle was "extremely micromanaged"
Well, if I had some influence on decision making at a company and that company were going straight into bankruptcy, I wouldn't even think of demanding such influence at a company that bought it out.

This guy doesn't sound like a good engineer that was mobbed by a bad management, he sounds like an audacious buffoon who had it coming.

Alessandro Santini replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 7:29am in response to: J Szy

Tagging James Gosling a "buffoon" - oh dear, you have a long way to go, mate.

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 9:16am in response to: Alessandro Santini

Well, how would you tag a guy that despite his having had influence of decisions that had driven his former company straight to the verge of bankruptcy behaves like the company that had bought them out owed him something. Something like, say, influence on decision making?

To me, if it walks like a duck... be it Gosling, be it pope, be it whoever.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 9:50am in response to: J Szy

there are many facets to decision making.  on a technical front, Gosling most decidedly is *NOT* a buffoon.  in fact, he's been extremely successful, and his technology and vision were one of the main reasons the company was worth billions to oracle.  his invention has literally taken over a sizeable section of the IT world.

so, yes, on that front he could reasonably have expected to retain a senior technical role within the bought out enterprise - a role that had real influence.  oracle were foolish to not keep him around and massage his ego a bit if required.  at the very least, keeping the figurehead around gives a +ve message and is not that expensive in the grand scheme of things.

and further, how do you know that Gosling had any business level input?  i doubt very much that he did.

however, by any reasonable metric, someone like jonathan schwartz shouldn't have been allowed to carry on with the decision making.  in a real sense, the business people and institutional investors let the engineering excellence of sun down.

Tony Childs replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 9:57am

Wow, I can't imagine what hubris would cause someone to call Gosling a buffoon. I wonder, what would such a person have to have accomplished in their professional lives to warrant saying such a thing? Unless Jacek is Bjarn Stoustrup incognito...

Mark Haniford replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 10:35am

I wouldn't call Gosling a buffoon, but this interview puts Gosling in a bad light.  He probably should have kept his mouth shut about some of these things.

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 12:54pm in response to: Andrew McVeigh

on a technical front, Gosling most decidedly is *NOT* a buffoon.  in fact, he's been extremely successful, and his technology and vision were one of the main reasons the company was worth billions to oracle.

Yes, but this was 15 to 10 years ago. More recent Java changes were not that successful, were they? On the technical front either: generics, JavaFX script, breaking JDBC backwards compatibility... 

I don't know how Sun used to pay its employee. I would expect that he earned from his original success so much money that he doesn't need to work for money anymore. But that is not necessarily an obligation for Oracle.

on that front he could reasonably have expected to retain a senior technical role within the bought out enterprise - a role that had real influence.

Maybe. But maybe Oracle wants Java7 to be adopted faster than Java5 was?

how do you know that Gosling had any business level input?

At this level technical decisions have real, serious business consequences. So yes, he had.

 

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 1:12pm in response to: Tony Childs

Unless Jacek is Bjarn Stoustrup incognito...

 No, I am not. And I wouldn't want to be the one responsible for C++ either. :-)

I can't imagine what hubris would cause someone to call Gosling a buffoon. I wonder, what would such a person have to have accomplished in their professional lives to warrant saying such a thing?

You're trying to impose some kind of appeal to authority here, but in vain, I don't have any respect for this kind of argument. He is no Brian Boitano to me, and if he behaves like an audacious buffoon I'm not too shy to tell it, even though I consider myself a Java fan (or even fanboy?).

 

Andrew McVeigh replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 2:49pm in response to: J Szy

You're trying to impose some kind of appeal to authority here, but in vain

sort of, but there's a deeper point here - that your argument doesn't hold water regardless of who you are.  what evidence do you have that gosling is a buffoon?  we have the evidence that he's not in that he invented java.

oh, by the way, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 3:25pm in response to: Andrew McVeigh

what evidence do you have that gosling is a buffoon?

The linked interview.

we have the evidence that he's not in that he invented java.

It's irrelevant.  I tagged him so in relation to his whining about bad bad people at Oracle (who had just put several billion bucks into the failed company he'd been working for), not his having invented Java.

One can be a genius when you consider his technical abilities and an utter asshole with regard to other issues (like, say, communication with other people and real life in general). I'd even say that it is not so uncommon among technically gifted people.

Gregory Ledenev replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 3:39pm

Jacek,

 I'd recommend you to read original article at eweek.com first before beating good man based on very shallow interpretation of what he's said. If you're lazy enough to do so:

Gosling:  “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,” and that was PRIMARY reason for leaving.

 Community, let's stop that thread; don't let Jacek promote himself.

J Szy replied on Thu, 2010/09/23 - 5:25pm in response to: Gregory Ledenev

“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,” and that was PRIMARY reason for leaving.

The facts are hard: he and the company he worked for, although they had invented and successfully marketed Java in the nineties, were ultimately unable to make any real money off of it. Oracle had the money to buy them out and an idea what to do next to make Sun's property into a revenue stream for Oracle. Oracle has its own vision, has its own methods (which, unlike Sun's have proved successful so far) and probably the only thing they wanted from him was his name.

If he didn't like it, it's OK to leave, but the problem is he felt Oracle owed him something just for the very fact of him being the James Gosling and his success of old and thus all this whining about micromanagement, about Oracle being "ethically challenged" and even more unsavory comment about Oracle being able to do "only so much damage".

Alessandro Santini replied on Fri, 2010/09/24 - 2:32am in response to: J Szy

I would tag him an outstanding engineer, prehaps not a businessman. I do not think that all the reasons leading to Sun's bankruptcy are linked to him. Take it easy.

Andrew McVeigh replied on Fri, 2010/09/24 - 4:19am in response to: J Szy

if he didn't like it, it's OK to leave, but the problem is he felt Oracle owed him something just for the very fact of him being the James Gosling

 I didn't get that out of the interview.  i just felt he was raw, and i admire him for being remarkably honest about the reasons why.

oh, by the way, have you stopped beating your wife yet?

Umm, I wish i hadn't written that.  I was trying to be a bit clever - combining another logical fallacy with an insult and it didn't work.  Sorry.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.