I’ve read the comments from my last entry – and wanted to make sure to respond to some of the points.
First, I knew ahead of time changing a ticker to which a generation had become accustomed would be hard. And that it’d draw out the cynics (or those whose only memory of the Java platform persists from the its awkward (and slow) beginnings).
We’ve been driving a lot of changes recently, and change is hard. Every decision has adherents and detractors (from moving to free software, to signing deals with former competitors – even getting rid of styrofoam in our cafeteria). Change is also the primary ingredient in progress. I’m committed to our decision – our ticker, and one of the highest volume equities on NASDAQ, is now JAVA. (And in response to the obvious question, the symbol SUN was unavailable, and plenty of companies name their ticker after their highest value brand, COKE among them.)
To respond to some of what I’ve read, here and elsewhere… do I expect a ticker change to have any impact on our share price – to be clear, none. No rational investor would buy on a ticker symbol. Investors buy on financial results or expectations (or trading patterns).
I do expect the change to drive greater awareness of the Java brand (something every Java partner has asked us for, for years), more dialog surrounding the role of Java as not just a language, but as a platform (for Ruby, Python, and other scripting languages supported on the Java Virtual Machine), and greater affinity with its inventor (Sun). How will it drive affinity? The picture below gives you just one idea – this was published globally after the market’s close on Monday (and continues to be referenced when Sun is now referenced).
With all that said, my last entry stirred up a lot of comments and emails.
Thus far, my favorite (good natured) rants have come from a few individuals annoyed that their tattoos and license plates (one shown above) are now out of date; a herd of (less good natured) system administrators who threatened class action (and bodily harm) if we changed our software naming conventions (Sun software updates or packages start with the filename prefix “SUNW” – there is no plan whatever to change that – to be clear, no plan – so please, stand down!); and those that believed changing our ticker symbol cost jobs and money (the change was free to Sun – moreover, NASDAQ loves it and the Java platform so much we’re working together on ways of promoting JAVA – which creates, rather than destroys, opportunity).
I’ve also gotten about 20, “I was on a [bus in Nepal/boat off Guam/beach in Finland/cofee shop in Vietnam, etc.] and the [driver/passenger/student/barkeep] said she knew Java but not Sun…” emails – which were generally far more supportive of the change.
Am I worried that the Java platform may not last forever (should you put it on your license plate 🙂 ? No. It’s the single most pervasive technology Sun has ever invented – and the most valuable brand we’ve ever built. It’s one of the few technologies that may outlast the century. I’m not worried about its permanence. Should you infer any change in strategy from the change? None, it was, purely and simply, an opportunity we didn’t want to let pass.
So I appreciate the comments – not all of them were unexpected, and we’d taken most (if not all) of the issues to heart before moving forward. And I still believe it’s the right answer for Sun in the long run. Time will tell.
For those interested in the history of Java’s naming, I asked James Gosling, Java’s inventor, for his recollection. Here’s his response…
Begin forwarded message:
From: James Gosling
Date: August 24, 2007 8:16:58 PM PDT
To: Jonathan Schwartz
Subject: How was Java named?
The story goes like this:
We needed a name. We had been using “oak” (which was selected essentially randomly by me), and while the team had grown attached to it, the trademark lawyers ruled it out. We had lots of email debates about names, but nothing got resolved. We ended up in the awkward position where the #1 thing stopping us from shipping was the name.
Our marketing lead knew someone who was a “naming consultant” (I don’t remember his name, but he was great). We could neither afford the price nor the time of a conventional product naming process. He agreed to do something rather odd, but effective and quick: he acted as a facilitator at a meeting where about a dozen of us locked ourselves in a room for an afternoon. He started asking us questions like “How does this thing make you feel?” (Excited!) “What else makes you feel that way?” (Java!) We ended up with a board covered with essentially random words. Then he put us through a sorting process where we ended up with a ranking of the names. We ended up with a dozen name candidates and sent them off to the lawyers: they worked down the list until they hit one that cleared their search. “Java” was the fourth name on the list. The first name on the list was “Silk”, which I hated but everyone else liked. My favorite was “Lyric”, the third one on the list, but it didn’t pass the lawyers test. I don’t remember what the other candidate names where.
So, who named Java? Marketing organized the meeting, the consultant ran it, and a whole pile of us did a lot of yelling out of random words. I’m honestly not real sure who said “Java” first, but I’m pretty sure it was Mark Opperman.
There certainly wasn’t any brilliant marketing mind who went through a coherent thought process.
As with a lot of innovation, not every decision – nor product name, blog or line of code – starts on a spreadsheet. Opportunity’s often far harder to measure.