Got to give Larry Ellison some credit. It took him almost 14 years to get there, but when the Oracle chief executive said on Monday that his company’s acquisition of Sun’s Java language was “the single most important software asset we have ever acquired,” he had reached a destination that seemed quite distant—perhaps non-existent—when he set out for it in 1995: network computing.
Way back then, Ellison was, no doubt, keeping a close eye on a new technology called a Web browser— Mosaic Netscape 0.9 was released in late 1994. But when a renegade band of programmers at Sun pulled an eleventh-hour “Hail Mary” launch of their brain-child—a “write-once, run anywhere portable programming language for the Web” called Java—in May 1995, the Web’s endless possibility became a reality.
So, while Ellison may have surprised many industry traditionalists when he shared Oracle’s Internet strategy and his vision of the network computer concept in a keynote address to an IDC conference in November 1995, he was simply stating what had been obvious to folks like Scott McNealy, Bill Joy, John Gage, James Gosling, Eric Schmidt, Tim Lindholm, George Paolini, Amy Fowler, and Alan Baratz over at Sun Microsystems for a while: “The network is the computer.” (John Gage)
Who would have thought back in the heady days of Web 1.0 that Sun’s hard-charging co-founder McNealy’s final act would be as the chairman overseeing the acquisition of his company by Oracle? Or that Bill Joy and John Gage would have joined the Silicon Valley V.C. ranks? Or that Eric Schmidt would have ended up running … well we all know where he ended up (and, if you don’t, “Google” him). But it’s comforting to know that, at least for now, James Gosling—known as “the father of the Java”—is alive and kicking at Sun, and can be found at http://blogs.sun.com/jag/
As for Larry Ellison: whether he knew it or not in 1995, he astutely saw “The Cloud” through the clouds.