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

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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.

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