The Day After the Verdict, I Open a Sun Time Capsule

I never published this interview because I didn’t find it notable. Don’t get me wrong, Tim Bray is a brilliant engineer and a great interview subject, but the interview itself was a bit meandering. The interview wasn’t worth publishing more because it was too long, it wasn’t focused. If anything the fact that the thing wasn’t published was more a reflection on my failure to conduct a more interesting interview than Bray’s content – again, Bray is made of awesome.

In 2008, I was focused on the struggle between Apache Harmony and Sun Microsystems and I was really frustrated with what I felt was “doublespeak” coming from Sun at the time. Right before I sat down with Bray, I had a quick talk with Geir M. which is somewhat off-the-record. He was at 10gen at the time IIRC, and I was asking him about the TCK dispute. When I sat for the interview, it was my goal to try to get Bray to make news about TCK licensing, you see that I failed at that goal, but four years later this video does have a few moments relevant to the Oracle v. Google trial.

This long interview covers many topics (maybe too many?), and it doesn’t start to get interesting until the end. You’ll see that I’m asking questions you wouldn’t expect me to ask Bray because I’m trying to zero in on the Sun and Harmony issue. I also figured that this was my chance to ask about bigger issues. I’m asking some fairly general questions about layoffs because there was a disconnect between Sun’s public message and what I was seeing on CNBC. The company was simultaneously struggling and making increasingly more audacious claims, this trend would continue later that year at JavaOne 2008.


Interesting parts of this interview:

I ask him to respond to a quote from his blog on the 18th of July in which he said he “didn’t want to be a share cropper on Massa Steve’s plantation” quote.

“It’s a great device, I’m probably going to get one. It is triumph of industrial design. Despite the fact that these puppies have been able to access the internet for a decade. the iPhone is the first device where people have been able to access the internet at scale and at volume.”

At the end of the day, I’m disappointed that there is a single vendor that controls the platform. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do anything to do something on the web.

Q: “What is Sun doing to make it more realistic to have an open market on a mobile platform?”

“we are substantially in the business for selling the backend network infrastructure. Now a lot of us at Sun think they would do better and they would make more money if they were radically to open the network. We think that it is quite plausible that the operators could open the billing systems…”

“Even assuming that the network operator gets half of that. I’ve been saying that in public for years. Inevitably I think it will happen, let’s radically open up and we’ll see an explosion of creativity. Google seems to be trying to do that with the Android platform.”

“Android looks pretty slick and it looks like a more [modern environment]… I have a couple of issues with Android, It seems to have stalled. There is no hardware yet.”

“I’m a little disappointed in the licensing around Android. If you look at the licensing on Android they can ship devices that have the same walled garden.”

I asked this question, “If Android is released and there is massive uptake, do you see any pressure on Sun to call Harmony a real implementation of Java?” He quite deftly refuses to take me up on the offer to make news. But he does say something along the lines of “It is Google after all, but the phone companies are bigger than Google.”

Two quick asides:

  • This story would have been uploaded earlier, but YouTube kept on removing it. I find something about this to be ironic.
  • Maybe this is ironic: Google used a screen capture from my interview with Bob Lee in its opening statement. It’s unclear to me if this is covered under “fair use”, did they just ignore O’Reilly’s copyright notice (just kidding).