Bill Joy leaves Sun

Edison turns off the lights

Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems chief scientist and co-founder, is leaving the company, moving on to "different challenges". No, he's not saying yet what those different challenges are.

Greg Papadopoulos, CTO, will take over Joy's responsibilities.

Sun wheeled out another co-founder, Scott McNealy, for the valedictory press release. And he has very nice things to say about his soon-to-be former colleague, while at the same time saying very nice things about Sun.

"Bill will continue to be an inspiration to all innovators. Bill's many contributions, including those to Java technology, SPARC and Solaris Operating System, have helped define Sun as one of the most innovative and inspired places on the planet. We thank Bill for the strong legacy of innovation that he leaves in the hearts and souls of every Sun employee. He leaves behind an incredibly strong team of innovators."

Every Sun employee? Truly, this is a remarkable achievement.

To be fair though, Joy does leave quite a legacy as Sun. He is most often cited as the main designer of the Berkeley version of Unix (BSD), the inventor of the NFS (Network File System) protocol and for his work on both Java and the UltraSPARC processor design.

For these achievements, Fortune once dubbed Joy "The Edison of the Internet."

Joy is also know for striking fear in the hearts of Wired readers when he pronounced that nanotechnology may lead to the world being covered in "gray goo."

More recently, Joy has been lurking in the backwoods of Colorado working on whatever he feels like. Joy managed to come up with the JXTA project for peer-to-peer networking as one of his last major contributions to Sun.

Sources say that Joy and McNealy have been at odds over the last couple of years. Joy went through a messy divorce and has been working on a book instead of keeping a close eye on Sun's future technology directions. McNealy reportedly offered Joy a nice options package to try and keep him focused, but this deal apparently failed.

Joy's departure comes at a difficult time for Sun. The company has already plotted out its software and hardware roadmaps for the next couple of years, but Joy was often touted as one of the guys that could come up "with the next big thing." Sun has relied on the next big thing principle to keep it ahead of the pack. ®

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