Java, and Survival of the Most Adaptable

Change is a constant at Sun. So long as the market’s changing – or so long as we can change the market – we’re going to evolve. As Darwin said, it’s not the strongest organisms that win, it’s the most adaptable.

To that end, today we announced a series of changes designed to prepare us for the next wave of system challenges and market opportunities. I want to thank Mark Canepa for years of extraordinary commitment and devotion to Sun, and welcome John Fowler (who will lead Sun’s Systems businesses) and David Yen (who will lead Sun’s Storage businesses) to their new roles.

Speaking of changes, tomorrow morning, I get to deliver my favorite speech of the year, my keynote at Java One. I get to do so wearing my fancy new title, “Chief Java Evangelist,” a title I now share with our Chairman.

I’m still amazed when I hear folks wondering how Sun monetizes Java. So at the risk of repetition, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

When Thomas Edison first introduced the lightbulb, he held patents he tried to wield against potential competitors – he wanted to own the client (the bulb) and the server (the dynamo). He failed. Standards emerged around voltage and plugs, and GE Energy (formerly, Edison General Electric), to this day, remains one of the most profitable and interesting businesses around. How big would the power business be today if you could only buy bulbs and appliances from one company? A far sight smaller, I’d imagine. Standards grew markets and value.

Then there was the civil war era in the US, when locomotive companies all had their own railroad widths and shapes – designed only to work with their rail cars and steam engines. How’d they fare? They failed, standards emerged that unified railways and rail lines, and that era created massive wealth, connecting economies within economies. Standards grew markets and value.

To get to the impact on a global scale, you should really read Mark Levinson’s The Box. Which talks to the extraordinary impact the standard shipping container had on global commerce. No, I’m not joking. It democratized global commerce. And it ain’t even done.

So if you want to know how I feel about Java, my view is it’s changing the world – standardizing the plugs and rail gauges and containers used by global internet players. Its momentum, in my view, is unstoppable. What’s that worth to Sun? Give it your best shot. When I do, I say most of our revenue is derived from Java. Just like most of Verizon’s revenue comes from handsets. Even though the economics of the handset look baffling (but I dare you to recommend to Verizon that they stop selling them). Those that believe free software or service yields lower revenue don’t understand the economics or dynamics of the software industry. Think Google or Yahoo!, not Maytag.

So for those in attendance tomorrow, thank you for joining us – at what’s become the world’s largest free and open source software developer conference. Believe me, there’s a huge tent waiting for you – I just walked the main hall, and you could fit a few Space Shuttles in the place.

And somewhat off topic, a family member of mine once asked if I ever got nervous before keynotes – when I mentioned having nearly 20,000 folks in the audience this year, they nearly passed out. My response was simple – what’s it like talking to your family about their accomplishments, no matter how big a family gathering? It’s easy, it’s what comes naturally, it’s called being a member of a community, and feeling pride. Talking about what you know and love is like falling off a log (vs. rehearsing a keynote you don’t care about, my worst nightmare – second only to extreme turbulence).

So I’ll see you tomorrow morning, on-line, or in person. Like I said, it’s my favorite part of the year, like spending time with family (and just wait until you see who joins the family tomorrow…).


Filed under General

20 responses to “Java, and Survival of the Most Adaptable

  1. Good luck at Java One, I wish I could be there.

    I would like to share 2 pieces of advice for you in your Java Evangelist role:
    1. Ditch the email-required form on the “Spread The Word” about Java page ( Take away the hoops you’re making people jump through and let everyone easily help spread the word.

    2. Revamp the desktop section. There are a ton of great desktop Java apps out there, but they’re not being listed on My experience has been that it’s a confusing (and opaque) process to try and get an app added. Make it simple to submit apps, and make them appear on the site fast. You should be showing off all the cool Java desktop apps that exist out there. In comparison, Apple has done a superb job in their MacOS Downloads pages. They have created a site where users know they can find great apps and developers know they can get in front of many eyeballs. You guys should totally copy that on for desktop apps and games.

  2. Just curious to know. What percentage of former sun employees are entrepreneurs?

  3. Morne

    I share your sentiments re free and open software and services, but would like to know your view on the new breed of ‘dynamic’ languages such as Ruby, Python, PHP etc. and where (if at all) they feature in Sun’s strategy.
    Java is doing very well on non-PC devices (handsets) as well as the backend development in the enterprise, but a number of the new startups seem to be migrating toward the dynamic languages mentioned above or Microsofts .NET (This is further supported by Tim O’Reilly’s analysis of the state of booksales for the different web development languages – see State of the computer book market)
    I personally think that Sun should actively encourage and support the porting of these languages to the JVM, as the languages would benefit from all the R&D that has already gone into the JVM, solving a nr of the problems that they face in developing their own VMs as well as the large footprint that the JVM already has in the enterprise. The benefit for Sun would be a further entrenchment of the JVM as a ‘standard’ in line with your vision above.

  4. Looks like you have some interesting information to share with all of us tomorrow. Looking forward to your keynote.

  5. Anonymous

    The idea of considation all our servers in one division (System) looks very positive!
    What do you think about similar consolidation of all compiler development in one division called Software?
    Now we have one part of them being developed in Software and another part being developed in System…

  6. Diego Calleja

    Nice history lesson – I guess we all recognize who the “locomotive companies which all had their own railroad widths and shapes” are in this industry 😉

  7. Diego Calleja

    BTW, here in Spain railroads have always been a bit wider than in the rest of Europe (for some engineering reasons I can’t remember). This means that trains which came from Europe have always needed to “switch” all their mercancies to Spanish-compatible railroads. This increased costs, and it’s said that it helped to delay the “industrial age” here in the XVIII century (and Portugal aswell, who depends on spain in this kind of things. Finald and Russi have non-compatible railroads aswell i think)
    Still today, we keep having the same incompatible railways – we just can’t change all the railways in the state. Engineers have built a hack to the trains which work in the frontiers so they can have “wheels” which can adapt automatically to both kind of railroads – but they’re few of those trains and I guess they’re a bit more expensive. I think that most of our trains can’t just travel to Europe (neither the reverse). I guess the lesson can be applied to investing all your money in non-standard technologies…

  8. Mr. Schwartz’s
    With the upcoming release of the Sony Playstation3, what is your opinion of Sun teaming up with Sony to release home/office productivity software using Java technology? It is my believe that the PS3 has the potential to do what Apple, Sun, and Linux have been trying to do for years, and that is to bring down Microsoft.
    As you know, the PS3 will be sporting some very impressive hardware, and will have interfaces that are attractive to both home entertainment (games and media), and the ability to serve as a computing platform. The only thing missing would be the applications; which Sun already has a stake in –
    In my opinion, a team made up of Sun, Sony, and Google would be an unstoppable force. Such a team would also provide Sun with a much needed image boost.
    Kindest Regards,
    Bill Fink

  9. Daniel MD

    Well i got to say as a shareholder i like what i read.
    But one thing is saying how java is a community and the other is how we on the outside feel the java community.

    I personally feel SUN as a controlling father, in relation to all it’s technologies, Java, NetBeans, etc… Sun does not seem to let go/share control of the projects they create and that is the main weakness i see in NetBeans and other SUN products/projects.
    But the main weakness in SUN products that i see at the moment is not technology, but being too much of a SUN only effort (you host the party, invite the guests, cater it and clean afterwards… compared to Eclipse/IBM they simply Host the party and lets other people do the rest), I really would like to see another giant corporation (Oracle, BEA, etc…) jump in the NetBeans/Java board of directors bandwagon.
    …if you love something set it free.

    (and just wait until you see who joins the family tomorrow…)
    I hope it’s all of us individual developers that somehow always fell a bit left out most times. It is so hard contributing to most SUN projects that it is simply not worth the effort for the individual developer to do it.

    The thing is that lately most of the technological breakthroughs have come out of individual effort trying to overcome limitations imposed by corporations like SUN/Microsoft and other giant companies that controlled up until now the development panorama. Stuff like RubyonRails, etc… that we all have come to get acquainted in the past couple of years.

  10. Dan Creswell

    I accept that standards can grow markets but I’m not sure that’s enough. Surely Sun also has to be able to exploit/get its share in those markets? How successful do you feel you’ve been?
    I can run the JVM on many different platforms and they don’t have to be Sun supplied. I don’t pay for the JVM or buy support.
    I guess my question comes down to: If I use Java, what compelling reasons do you have for me purchasing from Sun and what is it you think I should purchase?

  11. Jimbo

    Does this need commenting at all? Is this Sun’s 64-bit commitment?;:YfiG?bug_id=4802695
    I’ll bet $50 that this would have been fixed long, long time ago if Java was open source. So, how about it Jonathan?
    And why are GCJ/Classpath folks still required to waste their time on developing what Sun (the inventors of open source) already developed?
    Show us that you are in charge of Sun, not Gosling.

  12. Dear Sir, I’m the one that asked you about the limit between what should be proprietary and what should be open in an intellectual property business like yours. You answered that there is no such limit if you want to have your technology as much adopted as possible. You are so much accustomed to answer that famous questions about how Sun makes money with this and that… But I’m sure that every internet guy knows what you mean. And I’m an internet guy myself. What I don’t know, yet, is: is the whole debate about intellectual property wrong? Are patents a wrong tool for innovation? And copyright? It is strange: copyright gets more and more ground in our lives while open source does the same, too. There is a shift – due to the internet – from intellectual property protected in technical products towards intellectual property protected by legal offices to prevent copyright and patent infringement. But we all know about it. What we don’t know is: should the Us and Europe change completely their intellectual property laws? for the best of their economies? The economy of giving thinks away is better than the economy of greed? But how do we explain this to the greedy bunch? (sorry for my English: my language is Italian…)

  13. Prince

    Hi Jonathan,
    I think when people falsely claim that ‘sun doesn’t make money on Java’ they might be pointing to direct revenue generated by selling java based software. They are not paying attention to the eco system created by Java that enables SUN to sell more network infrastructure. They see the situation more as ‘SUN invented java, but IBM made more money by selling java based software’.

  14. yasir

    Hi’ Jonathan, I’m just an ordinary Indonesian people who lives in Java Island and would like to see your opennes and transparency trough your blog. Just a feedback for me as end user, Actually I don’t know what kind of Java is. I just feel its presence through the softwares that are using Java. Your view “standardizing the plugs and rail gauges and containers used by global internet players” might become really true if you could directly make us feel Java presence.
    Btw, i don’t see your comment back. Did you have any plan to create summary over every one topic before its closed?

  15. Dave

    Beer or wine, spiritualist or rationalist, we all share one gift… the gift of creation. Certainly your network vision, and your passion for technology indicates you understand this creative truth.
    Yet, there is another, much more critical truth. It is how we use our creative powers to serve others. For Sun, your customers (all of them) are creating their own business visions, and charged with acheiving their own success. Technology is not the center of their universe, but an enabler to thier own vision.
    Sun is not the center of the universe, no matter what technology centric vision of humanity fills your own dreams.
    Sun will turn around, when you understand that you are a servant to your customers, and that the technologies you create, come from listening to your customers, and creating thier success with them. It is not about talking to 20,000 developers who passionately drink your Java KoolAid, and believe that mastery comes from software and a computer screen. It is easy to speak to people who worship you. It is much tougher to speak with humility, to those whom you are destined to serve.
    I believe Mr. Canepa understood the power of listening to Sun’s customers. You have lost an important member of your team. There are many who are saddened by this loss, and fearful for Sun’s future.
    Your servant,

  16. VOC Collector

    The customer is king. The voices of our customers are a valuable source – the most valuble source – of product requirements. Rest assured, Sun still has and will continue to have a great many people who keep our ears to the rails and who listen – with unrelenting passion – to our customers (as well as to our potential customers)! 🙂

  17. Jonathon, you gave some interesting analogies, but there isn’t a clear and logical explanation on how to monetize Java. Your basic point was that one needs to grow a larger ecosystem and become part of the food chain, eating a small percentage of a large pie is better than eating 100% of a tiny cookie. But, creating a large ecosystem doesn’t mean succeed in it. If I look at the Java as an ecosystem today, BEA and IBM are at the top while SUN is probably losing money on it. Java is a technology, but technology doesn’t generate revenue. Products generate revenue. I cannot say SUN has a Java product. Frankly, so far, most of SUN’s software efforts are unsuccessful (Solaris 10 should be viewed as system technology).
    If I were to monetize Java, I would try to create some kind of JAVA co-processor which can run Java bytecode 10x faster, and sell the chip at the price of a BEA WebLogic license. I would design some new instructions into the SPARC and work with AMD to add such instructions into Opteron, so the Java co-proc works better with these CPUs, I might as well add some features that work better under Solaris 10…

  18. Anologies are good but does Java run on railroads? or is it powered by a dynamo? The last thing I would like to hear is that Microsoft’s Java does more things than IBM’s Or, Sun’s java is just a RI. I don’t know how the patents work but Java spec should be tightly controlled not necessarily by a company but by the community. Is JCP not enough to do so? I would hate to hear from you that Java spec is now free for all to change.

  19. David H.

    Hello Mr. Schwartz, or Jonathan since it sounds like you’re a welcome amount less formal than many in your level of position. 🙂 My comment isn’t related to Java but I figured this blog post was as appropriate as any since it discussed the coming changes with new strategies and personnel.

    I just wanted to give some constructive criticism as someone who would like to purchase Sun hardware but can’t. I’ve been trying for several weeks now to shift my server purchases from Dell to Sun because of the Opteron and the nice integration of Sun’s x86-64 servers in general with the lights out management, etc. The demo worked out great, produced performance about 45% greater than a Xeon of 1 GHz greater speed, drew one amp less power and now I want to buy; that’s when the nightmare began.

    Trying to purchase servers from Sun has been nothing short of ridiculous; I’ve gone through direct channels, an inside sales rep a friend at a local University uses, resellers, etc. and no one can seem to come up with any remote idea of what’s available, lead times, pricing, future changes, etc. I took a risk and cut a cashier’s check to a reseller (since we don’t have credit history with this reseller and didn’t want to give some no-name company our financials) for my first two Sun X2100 servers a week ago just to get something in the door; they still can’t even give me a remote idea of when I might see the systems show up or what the current status is. I’ve been waiting five days to find out if the configurations I want for several other models are available and what the lead times might be on those and the reseller had the gall to tell me they may have some info for me in a few days, but in a way that suggested that was preferrential treatment.

    I don’t work for a huge company but we’re a web hosting provider and burn through a decent number of servers per month; we’re used to being able to log into Dell’s website, see our discounted pricing, pick the exact things we want and have an order and ETA about five minutes later. I feel like an idiot for spending as much time as I have just *trying* to purchase from Sun, I haven’t even been successful at that yet unless those systems I’ve now spent money on show up.

    This doesn’t seem to be a unique experience, there are two blogs I found, one with over 40 affirming comments, of people who had the exact same experience. This tells me the sales model is broken and needs serious repairs, I’m ready to buy, just wish I could. Here’s those blogs: and


  20. Nice to see that Java is growing and will grow in next some decades, and why not ?
    I tell if Java is not perfect, then its something near to perfect.
    Network is the computer 🙂

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