Gosling brings technical muscle and thought leadership to Google

Java pioneer is unlikely to be a savior in Google's ongoing dispute with Oracle

So Google has snagged James Gosling, the so-called father of Java, roughly a year after his acrimonious departure from Oracle, Gosling revealed in his blog on Monday.

Gosling follows another prominent former Sun Microsystems engineer, XML co-founder Tim Bray, to Google. Now, Google has at least two of the most prominent Sun alumni on its payroll. Sun had been viewed as the place for famous technologists to go, and it looks like Google is assuming that mantle.

It's a peculiar transition because Sun was in the business of selling hardware and, to a degree, software, while Google mostly sells ads. The change could leave technologists feeling a bit rudderless: Bray has worked as a developer advocate at Google, but Gosling confesses in his blog to not having any agenda set yet: "I don't know what I'll be working on. I expect it'll be a bit of everything, seasoned with a large dose of grumpy curmudgeon." It should be interesting to watch what new role, if any, Google assumes in Java leadership now that Gosling on the team.

For Google and Android devotees, having Gosling on board might look like a tremendous victory. After all, he might be able to help fend off the lawsuit Oracle filed against Google last year alleging patent violations in Google's Android mobile platform pertaining to Java technology Oracle acquired when it bought Sun last year. But Gosling may not offer much of an advantage in that department.

When the lawsuit was announced, Gosling acknowledged Oracle had been interested in the patent issue while he was still involved in Sun/Oracle. "During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer's eyes sparkle," he said at the time. He also saw "no guiltless parties" in the drama and expressed dismay with fragmentation in Android: "This skirmish isn't much about patents or principles or programming languages. The suit is far more about ego, money, and power."

Analyst Al Hilwa of IDC also did not see the Android lawsuit as a primary motivation for bringing Gosling aboard. "This has more to do with Google positioning itself as a thought leader for Java with the community than any direct legal impact on the Android lawsuit," he said. "We see this often with companies as they mature, they go through a phase of coveting a position of thought leadership and mindshare, especially as they try to make gains in community relations. In this case, having the founder of Java is quite a feather in their cap with the Java community, and they are certainly positioning themselves as an alternative pole for this community. Gosling may be happier at Google given that they have a more free-form communication strategy compared with the buttoned-down Oracle."

When Gosling gave a presentation a couple weeks ago at TheServerSide Java Symposium in Las Vegas, he spoke of Oracle being forced to do a good job with Java for its own self-interest. Obviously, the Google hiring had to be on his radar screen at the time, but as could be expected, he did not mention it. His first day at Google was today, according to a Google representative.

Rather than expecting Gosling to be pondering any testimony on behalf of Google, should the case ever even go to trial, Gosling likely will instead do what he always does and immerse himself in the advancement of technology, like he did at Sun for all those years.

This story, "Gosling brings technical muscle and thought leadership to Google," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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