Saturday, 13 June 2009

Sun, Java and Innovation - reflections

My previous post on the Sun acquisition was a rather naive and misty-eyed piece of sentimental warbling. The truth is that Jonathan Schwartz’s vision hasn’t delivered quickly enough for the market: the share-price has suffered and Oracle has picked up something of a bargain. Pity, because (perhaps looking through those rose-tinted spectacles again) I rather like Schwartz’s ideas for growing the business, essentially giving away the technology and then ‘monetizing adoption’.  But it’s not happened nearly fast enough and one wonders whether it ever could. 

An editorial in SD Times sums up Sun’s difficulties nicely as ‘too much vision, too little execution’.  It’s not enough to give away tools and hope the next generation will adopt them. You need to innovate and to lead, because the brightest and best of the next generation want to climb the mountain, not travel for free in the foothills. To innovate, you need great scientists and engineers; to retain those folk, you need to pay them adequately and provide them with the facilities and resources they need to be brilliant. To do all of that, you need money.  And that comes from sales.  It’s as simple as that.

Just look at Microsoft Research: you just can’t foster this quantity and quality of innovation unless you have a lot of money to invest, and you only get that by doing a lot of very effective monetizing.  Microsoft and Oracle: we don’t like them very much, do we? But they’re really good at monetizing.

As for Java, most seem to agree there is no threat to its future as an enterprise platform: it’s open-technology now and well embedded in the enterprise.  What about the future of the Java language? Do we really need to worry about that? The language itself matters much less than the JVM, which surely has a very bright future given the newer languages targeting it, especially Scala and Groovy.  Should we care whether (e.g.) closures make it into the Java language, if we can use newer languages like Scala and continue to leverage all the existing Java libraries, components and infrastructure?

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