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JDJ Interview: David Spenhoff

JDJ Interview: David Spenhoff

On August 2, 1996, JDJ interviewed David Spenhoff, Director of Product Marketing for JavaSoft.

JDJ: Could you give a little history of JavaSoft, its relation to Sun Microsystems and your own position and responsibilities?
DS: JavaSoft was formed in January of 1996 as an operating unit of Sun Microsystems. You can think of Javasoft as a division of Sun Microsystems dedicated to Java. Our mission is to continue to develop Java and the Java Platform. We will also act as steward for a lot of the very exciting Java activity that is going on throughout the industry. We want to be a focal point for the Java talent and leadership within the industry. Of course, as an operating unit of Sun, we are chartered to develop products and services that we can deliver into the Java marketplace profitably.

Java within Sun extends back beyond the start of JavaSoft. In fact there is quite a bit of Java application and product development going on in other parts of Sun. These products are being developed to leverage the Java platform. For example, SunSoft has their Java workshop and their Joe product to provide Java to Corba mappings.

As the Director of Product Marketing, my responsibilities are basically the overall definition and marketing of the entire JavaSoft product set.

JDJ: Could you tell us a little bit about your background in the industry? Are you from a technical background yourself?
DS: Yes, I am, though I sometimes hesitate to admit it. I joined Sun about five years ago and initially worked in SunPro. That was the part of Sun that was doing developer tools. I was the director of marketing at Solaris for about a year before I joined JavaSoft. I also worked at Rational Software, which is an object software tools company. I have been a software developer and have worked in a couple of startups as both developer and marketing business manager.

JDJ: Who are the main players at JavaSoft? How are you organized?
DS: The President of JavaSoft is Alan Baratz and he joined Sun when JavaSoft was founded. He reports directly to Scott McNealy, Chairman, CEO and President of Sun Microsystems. Our other key people are Jon Kannegaard, who is the Vice President for Software Products at Javasoft. Jon is responsible for all of the teams that are creating this wonderful stuff, both in terms of the Java platform, the JDK and the products that we are going to develop and bring to market on our own. Jim Mitchell, who is a vice president and Sun Fellow, is our CTO. Jim was a Xerox fellow and worked at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center from 1971 to 1984. He has a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University and was a Senior Visiting Fellow at Cambridge. James Gosling is our lead engineer and the key architect behind Java. He also got his Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon. He's been at Sun since 1984. Allen Patty is our Vice President of Sales and has just joined us.

JDJ: Could you tell us about the new products and services from JavaSoft?
DS: The key product at JavaSoft right now is the JDK, the Java Developers kit. This is what you can download from our Web for free. We don't charge for that download. The Java Operating Systemª is the product that we license to our partners, particularly the operating system manufacturers, Microsoft, IBM, Apple, UNIX, Sunsoft and Tandem. There is a broad range of companies who have ordered Java and will now be including the Java platform and virtual machine directly into their operating system. We also have the complete set of API's that go with Java. They include multimedia, an area which we are working in with partners like STI, Apple and Intel, and Macromedia. That's not an exhaustive list, but some of the key players. We now have commerce API's, enhanced security API's for authentication, encryption, key management. enterprise API's like JDBC, IDL Java/Corba connectivity and so forth.

We also have JavaBeans, the architecture for Java which will be published in September. It's really a very exciting project and we are getting very strong feedback from the developer community that we are right on the money in terms of the directions that developers want to go. JavaBeans provides a complete component architecture for Java. That means that you can have containers and components within Java and create dynamic applications that change their functionality by embedding new components within the application. We are going further then that by also integrating Java with COM, OpenDoc, and, Netscape Navigator. That gives the developer the ability to use the exact same Java component that you create within the Java component architecture in Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word or Visual Basic. It's a very powerful model.

Let me also talk about services. We'll have a very exciting new service for developers soon. Our Developer services program is part of a complete revamping of our Web Site. It's going to provide a lot of services specifically targeted at people who are developing with Java.

Java OS lets Java run bare on silicon. It's a very compact, light-weight, operating environment for Java in applications like network computers, printers, copiers, pagers, cellular phones or industrial controllers.

JDJ: Many of the products and services you've described are being given away for free. How is JavaSoft planning on making money with Java?
DS: When we license Java and Java OS to our OEM partners like Microsoft, Apple and IBM, we do collect a licensing fee that is consistent with the value that we are offering them. In addition to that, we will be marketing priced products in some of our other product areas. The basic JDK though, will remain free to whoever wants to use it. We think that there is an exciting, highly profitable business opportunity for JavaSoft, just as we believe that there is a very profitable business opportunity for our developer partners.

JDJ: Many companies end up limiting their market by trying to make a lot of money on a proprietary product. How is JavaSoft addressing this dilemma?
DS: We won't do that. The basic Java platform for developers is the JDK. It is a free download and is there to propagate Java use as widely as we can. That is a core strategy of JavaSoft. Any products that we bring to market will be products that are layered and leveraged above that.

JDJ: How is JavaSoft controlling the development of the Java language?
DS: The Java language, as the core of the Java platform, will evolve under an open standards based process with a lot of outside involvement and input from lots of sources. There is a potential for multiple divergent API's implementing similar functionality around the platform, but our direction there goes back to the API family that we introduced at Java One. That is where we introduced a very complete set of extended and enhanced API's for Java: multimedia commerce, security, enterprise connectivity, and so forth. The specific reason we published them was to lay out a road map and to give the development community the knowledge of what the API's should look like so there wouldn't be divergent API's. In addition to that, we have the opportunity to look at the work our licensing partners are doing and see if it makes sense to incorporate it into the Java platform. Most of that stuff is below the covers. It's really not at the level that would affect what an application developer would do, but it would affect things like performance.

We want JavaSoft to be the central clearing house for the API's. The API specification is of course, an open public document. Many of the API's and the implementation of those API's will be provided at no charge. However, there may be an ISV opportunity if they can provide a better, faster, smaller, smarter implementation of an API. It would be an after market opportunity and that is something that we would encourage. What we want is for the API is consistency, but we also want to supply an opportunity for ISV's and developers to innovate.

JDJ: As Director of Marketing for JavaSoft, what do you think are the best opportunities for Java Developers?
DS: I think there are opportunities in several different areas. We need development tools for the Java platform. The last count I heard was that twenty-five or thirty different companies are working on development tools. The other area is creating building blocks for Java like Java class libraries and Java object libraries. As the JavaBeans initiative moves foreword, developers can create objects in such a way they can be incorporated easily within the Java component architecture. There is also a major opportunity in terms of integration and custom programming services. A lot of corporations are starting to use Java so there is the opportunity to help them start to migrate towards a true multiplatform client/server base. There is really a broad range of areas. I think it's only limited by people's energy and creativity.

JDJ: What is JavaSoft's relationship with Microsoft? Do you feel threatened by Microsoft or are you working with them towards some common goal?
DS: I wouldn't say we feel threatened by Microsoft. There are areas where we are working with Microsoft on strong common goals. They are a licensee of Java and we have strong working relationships with them. I think that Microsoft has a different objective for Java then we have, but that may also be true for the Java community at large. Our dream for Java is that it develop into the premier multiplatform development and deployment environment. So, I'd put the shoe on the other foot. I think that Microsoft probably feels a bit threatened by the Java initiative, but they are doing some good work in terms of the quality of the Java implementations that are going to be available through their family of products.

JDJ: How do you see JavaSoft progressing in the future?
DS: JavaSoft wants to provide leadership. That is one of the exciting aspects of being part of JavaSoft now. We are not only building a business here within Sun for the Java industry, but we are also bringing a lot of folks with us. We want to show people where the opportunities lie. We don't want to be leaders if it's through threats or binding people to our platform. We can give the Java community the opportunity to prosper. That's the reason that folks are rallying to Java and the things we are doing.

JDJ: What is the best way to get information about JavaSoft?
DS: Our Web site is really the primary way of to talking us. The developer will have the new developers' site and there will be a lot of new ways for interacting with us. We leverage the Net extensively and the feedback that we get is that it is the best way to provide the timely information and access that developers really need to get.

There are a number of publications, both online and in print that we are involved with. We are also in the process of publishing a number of books that are probably in the bookstores now. They were written by the team here, including James Gosling. The first three volumes are the Java Programming Language, the Java Application Programming Interface Vol. I and II. They provide a very comprehensive, detailed and insightful look into Java and the API's. My guess is that they are going to become fundamental resources for Java developers.

JDJ: What kind of Java applications are you seeing now?
DS: People are doing a lot of mainstream things with Java: billing systems, banking systems, multimedia systems, and embedded applications. There are cellular phones, pagers, and other devices that will be coming out. They will be Java enabled and the exciting thing about that is that their behavior and functionality will be able to be downloaded and changed.

There are business opportunities now for service providers and for application developers. I think these new opportunities will drive a very exciting period and will change how people think of electronics. It will change some industries because instead of carrying several different devices, cell phone, pager, and computer, it will all be the same device. It will change the notion of what it really means to be connected and wired.

JDJ: Our readers always want to know a little about the people behind the company. Can you tell us anything of your interests or activities within JavaSoft?
DS: I am amazed at the constant use the pinball machine and the Ping-Pong tables get here. We have some champion players. I tried to play one of the games and was quickly disabused. I am a guitarist myself and I'm looking to form a JavaSoft band. Programmers and musicians tend to be very similar kinds of people.

More Stories By Scott Davison

Scott Davison was executive editor of SYS-CON Publications, Inc., for over four years. He has been in IT, applications development, for 20 years. He has also been a consultant for Exxon, Nabisco and AT&T.

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