James Gosling Finally Speaks Up On Why He Left Oracle

Gosling Breaks His Silence

Jessica Thornsby

Gosling picks JavaOne week to reveal why he left Oracle, and why Larry Ellison gives him the “creeps.”


JavaOne may be in full swing, but James Gosling has still managed to steal some of Oracle’s limelight by making JavaOne the week he finally breaks his silence on why he left Oracle. Previously, he has been tight-lipped about events surrounding his departure, cryptically hinting “just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good…” Although, he did imply the atmosphere at Sun/Oracle was not a harmonious one, revealing that he was “grilled” about the patent situation between Google and Sun during supposed integration meetings.


In the last few weeks, he has begun to adopt a more confrontational stance: launching a T-shirt campaign urging Oracle to free Java and – bizarrely – warning us that completely open sourcing Java could be crucial in saving us from a sci-fi dystopia future.


However, over dinner with eWEEK in San Francisco, James Gosling finally dived into the specifics regarding his resignation.


There are no prizes for anyone who guessed wages had something to do with Gosling’s departure. He reveals that he was dissatisfied with the wages Oracle were offering him, which he describes as his base Sun salary, but without the bonuses the company used to award executives who were vice presidents or above. “For the privilege of working for Oracle, they wanted me to take a big pay cut,” Gosling said. This was combined with what Gosling felt was a lack of influence in the future development of his creation, Java. “My ability to decide anything at Oracle was minimized,” Gosling said. “Oracle is an extremely micromanaged company. So myself and my peers in the Java area were not allowed to decide anything. All of our authority to decide anything evaporated,” he told eWeek.


This feeling of powerlessness seems to have been exasperated by a personal dislike of Oracle’s Larry Ellison and his invasive, hand’s-on management style. “He’s the kind of person that just gives me the creeps,” he said, explaining that Larry Ellison was the driving force behind every decision affecting Java at Oracle.


Ultimately, he perceived his new job at Oracle, was simply to be Oracle’s public presence for Java – a role that he had, reportedly, taken a pay-cut for.


When asked whether he now wishes Sun had been acquired by IBM, he admitted that he and Sun Chairman Scott McNealy had previously debated this, but had decided that an IBM acquisition would result in more lay-offs. In reality, Oracle didn’t do too shabbily itself when it came to job cuts during the long, drawn-out acquisition and the inevitable aftermath.


He also had some adverse words to say about Google and Android, stating Sun “were pretty ticked off with what they were doing and the way they were doing it” but claiming that he has learnt that, ultimately, litigation simply isn’t worth it. “The U.S. vs. Microsoft trial pretty much destroyed a year of my life.” Gosling also acknowledges that suing the popular-Google (who he refers to as having the aura of the “universe’s love child”) was only going to result in a public relation’s nightmare.


But, when it comes down to it, how concerned is Gosling about his creation? According to the interview, not very: Oracle relies on Java, and Java has acquired a life and momentum in the wider open source community, outside of Oracle’s reach.


“It’s going to be rocky for awhile,” he concludes but, ultimately, he is confident that Java will prevail.

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