eWeek recently published a very interesting interview with James Gosling, the father of Java. Mr. Gosling’s candor and honesty are to be admired, and it seems that he and I are on the same wavelength regarding many topics:


“Creating [AJAX components] is extremely hard. Not because programming JavaScript is hard, but because all these flavors of JavaScript are ever so slightly different. You have to build your components so that they’re adaptable to all the different browsers that you care about. And you have to figure out how to test them. None of the browsers has decent debugging hooks.”

I have been saying this for some time as well. The discrepencies between various browsers’ implementation of JavaScript make it difficult at best to write a fully cross-platform AJAX application of any complexity. Furthermore, the browsers themselves simply do not offer an environment to debug in; developers are stuck with write() and alert() to show the value of variables throughout the code execution. It is like working with BASIC code circa 1986.

“There’s no ability to do cross-platform QA; you’ve just got to do them one by one. Right now it looks pretty hopeless to make AJAX development easier.”

This is so sad, yet so true. I simply fail to see how anyone can realistically push AJAX as a platform for applications with the same level of functionality as desktop applications under these conditions.

Regarding Sun’s business mistakes

“There are so many to choose form. And sometimes it’s hard to say what’s a blunder and what’s just the case of the world being weird.”

All I can say to this is “WOW!” Can you imagine Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer or Michael Dell or Steve Jobs or Larry Ellison saying something like this? Neither can I. Granted, Gosling is an engineer, not a business person. But it is this type of attitude that has hampered Sun so badly over the years. The fact is, with business sense like this, Sun’s very existence is testimony to the quality of its products. Sun has indeed made more blunders than just about any major tech company out there, except for maybe Novell and Borland. Like Novell and Borland used to be, Sun is run by engineers. Their products are amazingly good most of the time, but they often simply have no good fit into the realities of the business world, and the rest of the company just does not know how to get paid for those products. Solaris is regarding by many, if not most knowledgeable people as the best UNIX out there, and certainly better than Linux. Yet Sun cannot manage to give it away! It is because Sun waited way too long to try to go open source with it. First they attempted to embrace Linux, then they open source Solaris. Sun changes its motto every year it seems like, that just shows how confused and directionless they are.

Overall, I like Sun. I think Solaris is a good UNIX, from what I know and have seen of it. Java, while being a dog in reality, is an innovative idea and did a lot to break Web development out of the stagnation of CGI. If the VMs were not so wretched, I would see it as a great competitor to .Net on the desktop. It is just a real shame that no one at Sun understand business.