Java's Spiral Into Extinction - Can Open Source Stop It?

The single feed from java.blogs that caught my attention today was this title:

Sun Microsystems to Cut 6000 Jobs.

Layoffs are no longer news nowadays, and yet nothing prepares you for it. While it was pretty evident that something had to be done from the losses it got from two of the last three quarters, bystanders like us never thought the solution would be this catastrophic. This gets bloggers like me, who well... blog about Java, wondering: will I be blogging about Java months from now? One solution to what seems to be an imminent disaster, as the extinction of one of the most celebrated platform in the history of computing, might well be just right beside it.

Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's contention that users will be inclined to realign their business solutions toward open source products such as MySQL, OpenSolaris, and GlassFish might be logical as the world braces itself for the worst that this global economic crisis has to offer.

But is open source really the solution? or is there an impending doom that looms over it as well? Some sectors believe that the current crisis will push experts to put a price tag over their hard work as opposed to giving it for free. When a hungry unemployed developer comes across a brilliant idea, it would be difficult for him to turn away from the instant gratification of charging a fee to parties who would be interested with it. Sharing it out in the open for free with the hopes of getting some good returns through services can just be too speculative at best, and speculation definitely isn't one of the marketable words in the world today.

This brings us back to the future of Java.

I'm no economic expert nor am I a software guru but here's what I smell brewing as I prepare my next cup.

Java is just so widespread: desktops, mobile devices, servers, car consoles, smart cards, etc, that it would be difficult to imagine that the companies making use of this platform would just dump it in the near future. The tides of these times spell out one word: uncertainty. With this in mind, trying out something new, i.e., replacing your current technology with something that is unproven can be nothing short of suicidal. So if the question is: Is Java going to spiral into extinction in the midst of this economic crisis?

The answer is no. At least not during the economic crisis, that is.

While Java will pretty much stay alive, I don’t think that’s all we’d like it to do… just to stay alive. We’d love to have it LIVELY again, like Duke turning cartwheels again perhaps?

But that’s easier said than done especially with an organization running with a 6000-less workforce.

So where do you get reinforcements? They’re out there on the open source community. But that brings us back to the argument some paragraphs back: will there be an army in the open source community to count on? Won’t these individuals turn their backs on the idea of contributing to a common cause in order to secure their own future?

The answer to that again is… no.

They won’t charge a fee because no one’s going to be willing to pay. These are uncertain times, remember? So the open source community will still be there, army and all. The economic crisis will not eliminate open source projects. Human beings are well known for their ability to survive, and the successful stories of survival usually ended that way because the survivors put their brains together without expecting anything in return…

except simply to survive.

Time for me to take my first sip as my cup is getting cold.


aby said...

I do hope this doesn't get any worse.

johnV said...

Not that I'm some doomsday soothesayer but believe me, we haven't seen the worst yet so brace yourself cause we're all in for the bumpiest ride of our lives.

Anonymous said...

Yes, people would like to be paid. This is true in good times as well as in bad times. The difference is that in bad times people are willing to pay less, and they will want make sure that the person they intend to pay have the proper experience. Creationg open source software is a good way to get such experience. So if anything bad times would be beneficial to FOSS.

Anonymous said...

Wishing bad times on people for interest of FOSS is rather machiavellian sounding.

But that's not why I wanted to comment. I don't see Java as spiraling to extinction. That's quite an inappropriate title for this blog. Java isn't going to die. It's already too ubiquitous to be dropped so suddenly. The ride ahead won't be bumpy, either the economy will right itself (with help or without), or it will simply and suddenly crumble away to nothing, there won't be a bumpy middle ride, it'll be one or the other. I for one am preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. That's all any of us can do.

Preparing doesn't mean saving you money BTW, when an economy crumbles, money becomes worthless. You need to protect yourself, and be able to provide for yourself, generally by providing a tradable product or service, and stock up on things you need for the long term.

Matt Kukowski said...

If you have not noticed... the economic crisis will trim the fat that the rich have carried in their fat bank accounts.

Unfortuently, the poor are usually hit (jobs cut first) Example: Rural small towns (hickvilles all over america) are losing their jobs due to GM motors closing.

But, if you research on you will find that one of the top5 industries to be 'recession proof' is the IT sector. (Healthcare and Auditors are in the top5 list as well)

I know SUN is in the tech sector, so why is SUN in trouble, anyways? Well, SUN has been in trouble for a LONG time now. The resession only compounds the problem.

Microsoft, will see a drop in stock, but since businesses, needs computers to make sales and track it all, Microsoft surely will not be hit as hard as other sectors.

Now, with Linux and Open source... how can anyone say that developers will stop being creative, just because the banks and mortgages and the wealthy are losing all their precious stock?

Artists have ALWAYS been starving! Artists are artists for the joy it brings them, not for profits. So, open source will probably be the most resiliant sector of them all, regarding the recession.

Maybe open source projects will slow down, but they will certainly not stop writting lines of code.

johnV said...


I think you're right. Would "Java's Downward Spiral" sound better?
I'm not really very familiar with the ethics of blogging but would it be appropriate to change the title in mid-flight? If so, then I just might consider that idea.

However, I'm not very comfortable with the thought that the economy will suddenly correct itself or crumble away. Wouldn't it have to go through something intermediate like a bumpy ride before it ever corrects itself (with or without intervention) or crumbles away?

johnV said...


You know what, I agree with you. Artist don't mind that much getting hungry do they? They just go on with their labor of love no matter what it takes.

Anonymous said...

Java is open source now isn't it? This will certainly prevent the worst.

johnV said...


Yes, if i understood correctly it already is . But I somehow got the impression that they were tentative about it.

Anyway, if you're interested, you may check this out.

Anonymous said...


thanks for the link. I have heard about this project. However, I do not know how good it is. I am using Sun's environment and Eclipse and I am only a beginner on Java.

Anyway, I have a feeling that IBM, Oracle or another company with a strong interest in Java (and other Sun products) might buy Sun or at least increase the participation in the open source Java.

Anonymous said...

Another thought: if Sun goes down, will they pull MySQL down with them? That would be a pitty.

johnV said...

MySQL? I don't think so. MySQL, which has long been open source, was already doing good even before Sun acquired it. And come to think of it, now that Java is open source too, I don't think it's going to spiral into extinction at all. One of those comments above (anonymous too) is right. Java is just way too ubiquitous.

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Rockhopper said...

>I'm no economic expert nor am I a software guru...

Then why would anyone read further?

johnV said...


First, thanks for dropping by.

Now for my answer:

Maybe because you'd like to hear what I have to say? Wouldn't hurt to listen to an opinion from a non-expert, would it?

aby said...


It's simply awareness.

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Oh wow. At the end of the day, it's comments like this that make blogging really worthwhile.