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Scott McNealy Predicts Java Forking

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Attendees of the PostgreSQL West 2010 conference had the rare opportunity to hear Sun co-founder Scott McNealy's unique perspective on the software industry and Oracle, the company that bought his co-creation.  McNealy has been relatively quiet since the acquisition of Sun, but this week he broke his silence.

McNealy was surprisingly understanding about the general state of things, with Oracle now in the driver's seat of his old company:

"Do I have a problem with Larry Ellison buying Sun?  No.  That's part of capitalism. As soon as we go public we are for sale. Do I have a problem with him exercising legal IP rights?  No.  Would it be how I run and operate?  Obviously not.  But I was a good capitalist, he's a great capitalist. … I'm giving Larry a little grief but there are copyright laws, there are patents, and I believe in patents"

At the same time McNealy also emphasized the importance of forking in open source.  He predicted the forking of OpenSolaris, which has happened now with the Illumos project.  He also predicts the forking of Java.  Although McNealy says, "I believe in open and sharing," he qualifies this with the possibility that "Ellison may actually do it better with his model.  It really depends how well he executes."   McNealy notes the fact that he currently doesn't get a paycheck, while Ellison certainly does.
McNealy's main mission at the conference was to take some shots at Oracle and other database vendors for their high-priced, locked-in database technologies.  The timing couldn't be better now that Oracle has doubled its MySQL support costs starting this week.  McNealy joked that when Oracle re-named the end-user license agreement to the software license agreement vendor explanation (SLAVE), people should have started worrying.

You can read more about the conference coverage at ComputerWorld or The Register.


Liam Knox replied on Fri, 2010/11/05 - 6:28pm

Something makes me sick about these statements.  There appears an underlying perception that capitalism is correct without justification.  Bill Gates is probably the greatest capitialist in the world but has he done more good or bad for software or mankind?

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Sat, 2010/11/06 - 4:32am

Apart from the fact that we should stop acting as a child pointing out Gates as the bad boy, because things are more complex (yes, Microsoft filled the world with crappy products for years, but they also delivered computers and spread the digital age concepts to billions of people), capitalism is about making money. When you forget that, you end up with things such as Sun Microsystems, that is great entities that are doomed to shut down within a few years. No money, no party. Does this justify anything in name of money? Not, but ethics aren't the correct solution here: who's supposed to judge? Legality here is the correct solution. Unfortunately, this also means a lot of lawsuits.

Liam Knox replied on Sat, 2010/11/06 - 11:07am in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

Equating Captilism to Goodness or Greatness is just pure idiocy. Hence Mcnealy, to me, sounds like a bloody Idiot.  I would take a pure scientist over these meglamaniacs anyday.  Take your pick if you like with respect to benefits to mankind. Gates, Gosling, Einstein, Darwin, Berners Lee, Ellison (in no order or add your own)

Petr Jiricka replied on Sat, 2010/11/06 - 5:17pm in response to: Liam Knox

Capitalism may not be perfect but it's the best thing people have been able to come up with so far. Please suggest something better than capitalism and we can talk. Many have tried, and the result was impoverished nations in the better case, or millions of people dying in gulags in the worse case. As for Bill Gates, hard to say if he's done more good or harm in software, but he is definitely doing a lot of good things for the mankind through is enormous contribution to charity. And doing something good for mankind is much more important than doing something good in software.

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 5:19am in response to: Petr Jiricka

I agree with Petr. In relation to a previous post, saying that scientists are preferred to capitalists: and who'd pay the check for scientists? Or they are supposed to work for free?

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 10:56am in response to: Petr Jiricka

Agreed. I guess if we're both from Eastern Europe and seen the alternative (i.e. last whiffs of socialism in the 80s) to know there is no real alternative to capitalism. Anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves.

Nevertheless, there are different ways of being capitalistic and Oracle's actions towards the larger Java community are leaving me less and less interested in contributing to Java in my spare time via open-source projects.

You can't insult the community on one hand and expect them to keep the free open source ecosystem as vibrant as it has been in the past.


Phil H. replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 3:00pm

I think in the usual blind rush to support capitalism the original point may have been missed. Capitalism may very well be the best system. That doesn't mean everything done in the name of capitalism is automatically justified. And being successful at it does not make you are great person. In fact the nature of the game tends to favor those that may not rate so well on a scale or morality.

Oele Wapper replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 6:10pm in response to: Phil H.

That's great and all, but what does that MEAN, to be "morally good". Let's not forget that the likes of Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Mao Tse Tong, Pol Pot, Che Guevara, Joseph Stalin etc. are all "morally good actors", in specific moralities (moralities being near-equal a concept to religion, and there are good and evil morality concepts, like there are good and evil religions. While a few exceptions are clear, most religions are in the grey zone. Just because Christianity is "very" good (as compared to others) does not mean other religions even aspire to be good. An example would be slavery : ALL religions, from islam over buddhism to hinduism and just about all natural religions support slavery. Christianity (and -to a lesser extent- bushido) don't. All officially atheist societies had slavery (forced labour without wages for a large part of society) - including e.g. the Soviet union. Ever notice how much the definition of socialism ("communism" - as if they're different) matches the definition of slavery ? Ever notice how true that was, both in theory AND in practice ?).

So what does "morally good" mean :

A person is morally good if he matches a certain arbitrary standard (in your case the catholic Christian stance of behavior - except in that you're supposed to be grateful that the "evil capitalists" are actually giving you the chance to do some good. They are the source of the taxes you redistribute, so thank them).

In other words, it means nothing at all. And yes the American "atheism" is a carbon copy of Christianity with the name of God scratched and "flying spaghetti monster"filled in. Anyone who thinks it is somehow different from Christianity needs to get out, into Africa or Asia, and see what a different religion actually looks like)

"Capitalist pig" however has a much better definition :

A person is capitalistically successfull IF he took something of little value, and increased it's value to other humans. In other words, a capitalist successfull person is a person who created wealth out of nothing and distributed it to others (who did it without govt. interference, so given how many democrat politicians work at goldman sach's, showing them as an example of capitalism is about as accurate as using a Cuban or North Korean company unfortunately)

Which of these is the most "good" ? If you're talking about things like lifting people out of misery or poverty, the answer is extremely clear. If you're talking about blindly forcing ideology on millions of people, and generally, killing equally large numbers of people in the process, the answer is equally clear.

Of course, it is beyond obvious what all the "capitalism is evil" people want : they want their own vision forced, manu militari, on everyone else (with all the bloodshed it requires - and if history is any indication, it requires a LOT of bloodshed)

Liam Knox replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 7:00pm in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

Well yes, given that Einstein worked in the Patent office, ironically.  He was in all respects working for free.  He was certainly not paid for sitting on a river bank dreaming of traveling next to a light beam.

Liam Knox replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 7:41pm in response to: Petr Jiricka

I think you need to be very careful in your assessment of Bill Gates charitable actions.  Based on the money hes has gained from reseting mankind back 20 years he is simply redispersing this wealth.  Net impact is still negative.  I don't doubt his intentions but I don't over credit its worth, like his software.

Capitalism, by evolution, has been the best effort of a human society but it is wrong to assume it is the best or that the only alternative is a Gulag.  Indeed you see so many mixes of society regardless of their declared ideology.  Living in Japan I can tell you there are more communist attributes implemented correctly in terms of jobs for all, base living standards than in China.

My main grudge against Mcnealy is his perception that by being a capitalist justifies or enobelizes whatever he or Ellison does.  It does not.  Indeed more good has been done for mankind based on nobel aspirations.

Mark Haniford replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 8:21pm

Will you morons just stick with Java? Nobody gives a damn about your ideology.

Igor Laera replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 8:27pm


I think, the current affairs in any sector, is it open source, is it web, is it dynamic languages, even is it politics (as seen in the current elections in the US) that there are more shrill people at work then usual.

Where are the sane ones? I think they settled. They get their share of the things, they know it cost lots of work to get 10% more, so they are happy for now. The ones who could change things are simply saturated. They dabble in things like Groovy++, Scala or even LLVM, but this are non lethal playgrounds.

I don't care about Oracle now crazy monetizing everything they got from Sun to the potential maximum. If Sun had, lets say got 30% of the 100% Oracle is currently asking, Sun would probably not be bought off by some of shrillest companies in the market.

There is a wide difference in behaviour between 'normal' capitalistic and exploiting the capitalistic system, especially by using it's inherent flaws. If Sun had been more capitalistic, it would have helped them survive.

Many Java developer feel now trapped; may be forced to 'defend' this shrill new owner. But lets see it from an other perspective: when do things change in the IT-landcape? When everybody is satisfied? Surely not.

Even if Android implementers will have to pay $15 more on every $400 device for (laughable) software patents licensing, its still an very open platform in comparison to all other platforms. Even if Sun asks money for certain types of high end JVMs, its still Java, its still the JDK which drives billions of dollar revenues on many platforms. Let the business people deal with mad hatter Larry E. They decipher mumblings of crazy people every day ;^)

The more interesting question for me: is there really an interest of creating a third, truly open, 'enterprise ready' VM, lets say, starting with Google who could chip their Dalvik VM into the hat?

Here it gets fuzzy: I don't see it. As I said: the sane ones are satisified. I believe most people simply let off steam, but there is simply not enough Juice in the market to really go there in the next 5 years.


Mark Haniford replied on Sun, 2010/11/07 - 8:28pm in response to: Liam Knox

I think you need to be very careful in your assessment of Bill Gates charitable actions. Based on the money hes has gained from reseting mankind back 20 years he is simply redispersing this wealth. Net impact is still negative.
Liam, no wonder you're a leftist/socialist. Statements like that certify you as an imbecile.

Alley Cat replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 1:30am

Capitalism is effective, at least on the average, compared to feudalism or centrally planned economy (at least the USSR style), but if let alone tends to lead to grotesque inequalities. Capitalism tends to monopoly and it tends to more or less take over the government. No country practices unhampered capitalism. In the US the government feeds vast industries (through the Pentagon and Nasa for example). Just recently governments the world over redistributed the huge losses of financial speculators to the general public. As for Microsoft, they have paradoxically managed to stamp out the competition by threatening to withhold Windows licensing to PC-makers if they shipped competing OSes.

Claude Lalyre replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 4:42am

"You can't insult the community on one hand and expect them to keep the free open source ecosystem as vibrant as it has been in the past."

If you think that the Java community has been cheated, then an
"affirmative action" should be organized against Oracle !

Behrang Saeedzadeh replied on Mon, 2010/11/08 - 7:33am in response to: Petr Jiricka

Please suggest something better than capitalism and we can talk. Many have tried, and the result was impoverished nations in the better case, or millions of people dying in gulags in the worse case.

Scandinavian countries are by definition social democracies and not based on capitalism. Somebody that sees the potential of making a lot of money might not like to live in those countries, but workers, the middle-class, and in short, who ever that feels he/she is in unfair pressure in a world based on capitalism is more likely to prefer to live in one of those countries.

Besides not all capitalisms are the same. For example, in Canada health care is free, in US it's not and that has a huge impact on people's life.

As for Bill Gates, hard to say if he's done more good or harm in software, but he is definitely doing a lot of good things for the mankind through is enormous contribution to charity. And doing something good for mankind is much more important than doing something good in software.

In a world where wealth was spread evenly, charities would have no place. Charities and the like are a by product of capitalism. I am not questioning Bill Gates here, charities in general.

And no, I am not communist, the least reason of which is that lots of innocent people were killed by some of the "most honored" communists: Mao, Lenin, Trotsky, and also because of the idiot whose name is Kim Jong Il.

Jacek Furmankiewicz replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 6:59pm in response to: Claude Lalyre

Funny, but not really. You will just see (probably) less and less of interesting open source libraries being produced in Java, that's all. They don't get created on their own, you know...someone has to be passionate about Java and contribute to it.

David Matějček replied on Tue, 2010/11/09 - 7:51pm

Saying that Capitalism is "nice" is analogous to saying that Communism is "nice". Both sentences are hurled by people, which live well in their favourite regime and do not bother with other people.

I think there is so much space for another approach to society, although it looks so naive (why? Maybe today everyone sees himself as immoral?) - as Behrang said, Scandinavian countries are closest to this.

Communism is about power. Capitalism is about money. But my target is to be comfortable with my life. And more, I like when people are happy. And it looks like most of us forgot how it feels like.

Claude Lalyre replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 4:23am in response to: David Matějček

"Capitalism is about money"

The money, so the power too...

David Matějček replied on Wed, 2010/11/10 - 12:39pm in response to: Claude Lalyre

However it looks that it is true, it is not true in general - and if it would be true, the Soviet Union ended much earlier. And now, in this battle - american justice (and most of others) is not about truth, but about qualities of lawyers and also about voices of all the java users.

So to have the money does not mean to have the power automatically.

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