Sun is all about JAVA. While they might try to tell you that they have a diversified portfolio of strong products in the server market, you should also know that the server market evaporated along with the economy. Sun realizes this and has expanded the software division into three components. I'm most interested in the Application Platform Software division, which will oversee Java, MySQL, and Glassfish.
Sun announced massive layoffs today, and shuffled some executives around to new positions. Most relevant to the Java platform is the selection Anil Gadre to head the Application Platform Software division. Before serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Anil Gadre was general manager of the Solaris effort. Anil Gadre is also named as co-inventor on a Sun patent for the per-employee pricing model Sun uses for Java Enterprise support. Gadre is also largely responsible for repositioning Solaris to compete with Linux, most notably managing Solaris' transition from proprietary to open source.
Time to Refocus the Java Platform?
Sun has also announced that Rich Green is leaving the organization. This year's JavaOne was noticeably downbeat and Schwartz's mood at the blogger press conference was noticably glum as the conference happened to coincide with the announcement of layoffs. It is certainly no surprise that Green is leaving the organization, but one has the question why it didn't happen much sooner. Sun has hemorrhaged GUI experts to Adobe ever since it decided to start pushing JavaFX as the answer to everything interactive; I wonder if it is time for Sun Microsystems to disengage from the JavaFX effort. The PR team continues to trumpet the technology as the next big thing, but the demonstrations are underwhelming at best. With Green's departure, Gadre has an opportunity to refocus on the core platform and reconnect with the developer audience. The center of this community is still server-side development, not mobile GUI or Bluray.
While Java retains a large developer base, the Java brand has been in a free fall for a few years, and I'm constantly surprised to keep on seeing the same marketing executives in the briefing rooms year after year. To the Sun employees who find themselves jobless, good luck. Know that the magnitude of this layoff would have been smaller if your management team had been making more rational decisions about direction over the past few years. To the employees who remain, you should take no solace that you remain in the employment of a company that has so badly mismanaged the Java platform. Gadre might be just what the doctor ordered, but it will take bold strokes to resuscitate this platform.
Opportunity to Break a Log Jam
The transition to open source Java was prolonged and rocky, and the JCP is currently paralyzed over the continuing disagreement over the TCK. Sun has preached openness while using TCK licensing as a lever to protect its revenue from licensing Java on mobile platforms. Open source communities see the restructuring as an opportunity to reengage Sun to see if they are ready to break this log jam. It will be interesting to see if there is any shift in TCK licensing strategy with the management change. If Sun wants to protect the Mobile revenue by precluding a JVM implementation under a BSD-style license, they will not budge. If Sun realizes that the viability of the platform is more important than the Mobile revenue, they will capitulate and remove conditions from the TCK license. (I predict no progress.)
What Happens to Java When...
Although the press release positions this as an "opportunity" for Sun to align itself with the market. This isn't a restructuring to take advantage of favorable market conditions, this is a round of layoffs precipitated by the worst economic conditions in decades and serious talk of a multi-year recession. This could very well be the last gasp of a company trying to rearrange business units for a sale. The coming multi-year recession will claim a few large companies, and Sun's operating costs were already very high before the current global crisis. Maybe they will survive the coming storm, maybe they won't...
...but if they don't, what happens to Java?
PHOTO CREDITS: Tim O'Brien