Blog archive

Reactions to Google's Gosling Hire Start Rolling In...

James Gosling's blog was unavailable part of yesterday, I suspect because of the sudden spike in traffic he created on Monday when he posted the following: "I find myself starting employment at Google today."

Yes, Google got Gosling. The news was in dozens of headlines yesterday, and I was able to confirmed it late in the day via other sources, but I could get no details about what he will be doing there -- no job title, no department, nothing. Gosling said in his blog he does not know what he will be working on at Google, but he said that the job "looks like interesting fun with huge leverage."

RedMonk analyst Michael Cote wasn't surprised at all the tight lips. "I don't think it's that odd that they're not speaking to what he'll be working on," he told me. "Gosling is someone you would hire and sort it out later."

What does Google gain with Gosling?

"While he wasn't on 'the front line' of the Java world, I'd wager that Google is happy to stack more Java leaders into its ranks," Cote said. "As I recall, the two major languages at Google are Java and Python. Java is an important language for Google, and having 'The Father of Java' there is a nice thing to have."

Karen Padir, vice president of products and marketing at open source database vendor EnterpriseDB, sent me an e-mail opinion about the hire: "When I think of James, I am reminded of Sun Microsystems' core values: Integrity, Innovation, Courage and Transparency. It's not surprising that Scott McNealy's clan flocks to [those] that hold those same values. Google is very lucky to have James on board."

What is Gosling likely to be working on at Google?

Gartner's Mark Driver expects Gosling to take on some kind of "think tank" job at the Googleplex. "But maybe Google has plans for the next big thing beyond Java," he added. "Gosling would certainly grant them a tremendous amount of developer cred if that’s the case."

"I wouldn't be surprised if he continued to do research on Java, instead of getting glommed onto a specific product," Cote added. "He was doing a lot of research at Sun, last I heard."

And then there's the legal angle:

"On a tactical level, the pending and ongoing lawsuit between Oracle and Google over Java and Android makes Gosling's insights unique," observed Dana Gardner, principle analyst at Interarbor Solutions. "His input and guidance on the suit and Java technology in general is probably priceless."

IDC's Al Hilwa doubted that the hire was connected to the lawsuit. "As companies mature, they covet a position of thought leadership and mindshare," he said, "especially as they try to make gains in community relations. Having the founder of Java can be a feather in their cap with the Java community, and they are certainly positioning themselves as an alternative pole for this community."

Florian Mueller, the founder and former director of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, and a relentless blogger on issues around Oracle claims against Google, was sanguine about the hire.   "I believe [Gosling] is just another trophy recruitment for Google, like Vint Cerf and others before him," he said in an e-mail. "This hiring won't have any impact on the dispute between Oracle and Google because that case will be adjudicated purely on its merits.

So, what does Gosling get from a job at Google? (Besides a boatload of cash.) For one thing, Hilwa suggested, an environment that more closely resembles Sun's than Oracle's.

"It's just speculation, but Gosling may have assessed that he would be happier at Google, given a more free-form communication culture," he said. "For Google, not having to monetize its software R&D directly in enterprise licenses is a luxury. For companies that sell software licenses to enterprises like Oracle, it is more important to maintain a single point of communication around strategy and roadmaps because many of the deals can pivot on how focused and tightly articulated these are."

Stu Stern, one of a group of Sun Microsystems refugees behind a startup called Gorilla Logic, offered the most familial observation. "I always got the sense that James' heart was on the client-side, and certainly Android is by far the most successful expression ever of client-side Java," he said. "In any case, what die-hard geek could resist working for an innovation powerhouse like Google?"

Gosling's blog was back online this morning, and his comment thread had grown to 212 mostly positive responses. My favorite came from Vince, who posted on Monday: "So the guy who invented Java is working for the company that is being sued for using it? That's why they hired you, purely for the irony factor."

I don't know if it's ironic that the Father of Java will be roaming the Googleplex, but it's sure to be interesting fun… with huge leverage.

Posted on March 30, 2011