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Gosling Goes Google – Press Pass

I’m always loathe to comment on people going to work at various places – there’s a danger of focusing too much on the person themselves (good or bad) rather than the business role they’re play at the company. Nonetheless, I spoke with two reporters (Chris Kanaracus and John K. Waters) on James Gosling being hired by Google. Overall, a nice move for Google.

Both Chris and John were interested in what he might do at Google, and wondered why no one had said what he’d be working on. Here’s the amalgamation of what I sent to Chris and James:

Working on…?

I don’t think it’s that odd that they’re not speaking to what he’ll be working on. Gosling is someone you would hire and sort it out later. I wouldn’t be surprised if he continued to do research around Java, or just software and systems in general, instead of getting glommed onto a specific product. He was doing a lot of research stuff at Sun last I heard. While he wasn’t on “the front line” of the Java world (having moved from there to research, as I understand it), I’d wager that Google is happy to stack more Java leaders into its ranks. As I recall, the two major languages at Google are Java and Python (I’d think JavaScript is very popular inside Google as well). Java is an important language for Google then, and having “The Father of Java” there is a nice thing to have.

His familiarity with the full life of Java, patents, and such might also be helpful for their ongoing Oracle legal problems, but really, that’s just arm-chair lawyering: I have no idea on legal strategies.

Community Halo

Google has hired some of the larger thought- and technical-leaders in the Java world. Having them on-boards and, important to this point, working on Java certainly would give Google a bigger voice in the Java community.

And considering that Oracle is currently suing Google for the equivalent of being a “bad citizen” in the Java world (that Dalvik thing is still going on, right?) it would also be entertaining to see several of the old guard of Java on wrong end of the lawyer-stick.

I think the main thing is Google just collecting up important Java people, though. There’s a bit of hand-wringing in the Java world at the moment about who the leaders should be: things like Oracle suing Google and using trademark as “community management” tactic in the Hudson/Jenkins dust-up has frustrated some developers in the Java world.

It’s hard for many Java developers to feel sympathy for anything less than a very, very open Java after it was open sourced many years ago. So you throw in the ASF/Harmony dust-up (where Oracle effectively shut-down the ASF’s project to crate a new Java runtime) and developers are unsure what future controls Oracle will try to foist over the Java community. (For the other angle, see this nice pointer to Oracle’s side of the beef.)

Now: it’s not like there’s a tremendous amount of super-virtuous organizations in the Java world at the moment: at the very least, everyone is fearful of being too open from the demise of Sun, whether that’s warranted or not.

Pulling out of this rat-hole, I’d just say that hiring someone like Gosling is a good move if you care about Java. He’s clearly a good coder and a legend in the field, as it were: it’s exactly the kind of person Google likes to collect up and use its cushy position to fund and, hopefully, let flower into new innovations.

Also, if you’re interested, check out this interview (as a podcast) I did with Gosling at JavaOne in 2008.

Categories: Java, Press Pass.

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