April 5, 2004

Analysis: Why did Sun's chief tools spokesman really resign?

Author: Chris Preimesberger

There is no lack of blockbuster headlines coming from Sun Microsystems these days. On Friday, Sun announced a news trifecta: 1) a new partnership deal with its longtime archenemy, Microsoft; 2) a new president, the ponytailed and bespectacled Jonathan Schwartz; and 3) a stunningly paltry quarterly earnings report to go with the impending layoff of 3,300 employees.

On Monday, the company announced the resignation of its top Java tools spokesman, Rich Green, reportedly because he was upset at the deal his boss, CEO Scott McNealy, made with Microsoft President Steve Ballmer to end longtime IP litigation and improve interoperability of the two companies' products.

Green, to be sure, is one of the industry's most outspoken Microsoft critics, so the move out of Sun -- at least on the surface -- appeared mandatory for him in order to keep his Java-centric integrity.
However, a source close to Sun told NewsForge Monday that Green in fact already had a new position with another Silicon Valley company -- headed by a former Sun executive -- lined up and "wanted to tell his staff a while ago. But he was never able to do it. Friday became kind of the red zone, so he told them that afternoon," right after the McNealy-Ballmer press conference, the source said.

That may be true. But the timing of his resignation -- just happening to occur on the same day as the historic deal with the company's sworn enemy -- looks for all the world like a statement against Microsoft nonetheless.

Former Sun Java tools spokesman Rich Green is moving on.

Green has invested a lot of his professional career in battling Microsoft. He had testified in Sun's private antitrust case against the software giant and in the non-settling states' antitrust case. Green was a witness for Sun in the Department of Justice's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft for monopolistic practices in 2002. Microsoft ultimately won out and was not broken into separate operating system and application companies.

But the Microsoft deal on Friday was not the last straw for Green, as it might appear. Ironically, Sun said, Green played a key role, along with Sun CTO Greg Papadopoulos, in the negotiations that resulted in last week's 10-year, $1.6 billion deal.

Green was not available for comment today because his new company is preparing the announcement of his new position, the source said. "The company and its CEO are well-known, and this is a new venture," the source said.

"Rich tied the timing of his departure with the completion of the Microsoft negotiations and definitely not with any of the other executive changes at Sun last week," said Sun spokeswoman Laura Ramsey.

However, the fact remains that Green was McNealy's appointee as vice president of software and development tools, and it is logical that Schwartz would like to have his own person in that position. It was a foregone conclusion that Schwartz was going to replace Ed Zander as Sun president; the only question was when. Zander moved to Motorola as CEO about a year ago.

Green spent 14 years at Sun Microsystems and is credited with many contributions to the Unix industry and the Java development community. In the short term, Chris Atwood, director of engineering, Java tools, will act in the leadership role for the Java developer platform and tools group.

Green's accomplishments have been a cornerstone of Sun's success, from leading the development of the Java Platform to establishing its enterprise market, the company said in a statement.

"Rich brought an unwavering focus to two industry-shaping initiatives: the vision of 'write once run anywhere' for developers, and the universal distribution of the Java Virtual Machine on all PC desktops and devices," the company said. "Rich was instrumental in the pursuit and eventual settlement in the Java litigation between Sun and Microsoft, and was a stalwart voice for the enterprise developer."


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