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Gosling gusher sinks Oracle's Java cred

Losing that lovin' feeling

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Comment Oracle's loss of the father of Java, James Gosling, is by far the biggest in terms of defections the database giant has witnessed since acquiring Sun Microsystems.

There has been talk of a Sun "brain drain" ever since the acquisition was finalized in January. The departure of Sun chairman and co-founder Scott McNealy along with chief executive Jonathan Schwartz (AKA "My Little Pony") was expected - and even applauded in many circles.

Then some argued that the departure of big names like Simon Phipps, a C-level Sun executive, as well as Tim Bray, Zack Urlocker and others represented the beginning of a potentially harmful brain drain.

Gosling's loss is more than a trickle, given Java was one of the prime reasons Oracle bought Sun. At least in the Java community, losing Gosling is a gusher that Oracle's PR machine will struggle to control.

Despite years in what seemed to be a dormant state, having created Java and championed its launch in 1995, Gosling still represents Java to the community. Upstarts abound, and Java innovation has cropped up in many places around the industry. But there would be none of it without Gosling.

That said, what will be the overall impact to Oracle of losing Gosling? Negligible is my guess. That's because Oracle is all about making money. Oracle knew exactly what it was going after when it entered the bidding for Sun. And it was not any particular personality. Quick, name a big-time personality out of Oracle's engineering ranks. Time's up. Who did you come up with? That's because the company does not abide personalities (other than Larry's).

Oracle's goal in acquiring Sun was to do what Sun seemed to have so much trouble doing in its later years: Make money off of its horde of technology. And the database company does not necessarily need Gosling to do that.

You can't shut a good programmer down

But an engineer like James Gosling in the kind of person you want in a company with vision. Everything he touches will not bring gold, but he continues to have a vision and desire to solve problems and make developers' lives easier.

According to reports, he even pledged to still be writing code in 2030, which would put Gosling into his 70s. What company would let a guy like that get away?

However, we don't know the situation under which Gosling left Oracle. We don't know if he left out of dissatisfaction with a direction the company was taking, over a disagreement in terms, or whether he had a deal to stay on for a certain amount of time. In a blog post announcing his departure, Gosling said it was "time to move on" and added "just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good." Not exactly telling.

So however you look at it, things didn't work out between Gosling and Oracle. If Sun was still an independent company would he still be there hawking the Java Store, NetBeans, GlassFish and the rest of it. There is no doubt that he would.

Meanwhile, back to the Oracle "brain drain." At first glance, it appeared that former Sun chief open source officer snubbed Oracle, but a later report indicated Phipps was not offered a role at the database giant.

Reducing security risks from open source software

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