Analysts credit Baratz with spreading Java

Alan Baratz, a central figure in promoting Java technology to prominence, caught the industry by surprise this week when he announced that he will resign this month from Sun Microsystems. Baratz, who just last month ascended to the role of president of Sun's newly formed software products and platforms division, plans to join the venture capital world.

Alan Baratz, a central figure in promoting Java technology to prominence, caught the industry by surprise this week when he announced that he will resign this month from Sun Microsystems Inc.

Baratz, who just last month ascended to the role of president of Sun’s newly formed software products and platforms division, plans to join the venture capital world as a managing director at E.M. Warburg, Pincus & Co. LLC in New York.

Baratz’s announcement left pundits speculating about the underlying reasons for his departure and mulling the potential impact on Sun’s plans for Java technology. But many analysts said they think Java is now solid enough to survive any changing of the guard.

“Alan’s departure doesn’t affect Java because it’s now [spread] into other domains,” said Josh Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research. “IBM, everyone’s committed to Enterprise JavaBeans. Java’s here to stay. The evangelism of Java is done.”

J.P. Morgenthal, an analyst at NC.Focus, a consultancy in Hewlett, New York, agreed. “Sun has some good, strong people to fill his shoes. Plus, Java has some legs to it. There are some major corporations utilising Java extensively as part of their product offering, and I don’t know if Sun needs to be in the lead role [anymore],” he said.

Key technologies such as the Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition, and an updated version of Enterprise JavaBeans could be slowed in the wake of Baratz’s departure, said Mike Gilpin, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. But Gilpin said he doesn’t think that will have much impact on corporate users.

Java’s role had been broadening to a wide range of equipment, from small devices such as personal digital assistants and cell phones all the way up to the enterprise. Baratz’s departure “has got to take some wind out of the sails of Sun,” said Tim Sloane, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston. “He certainly was in the leadership position as they kept expanding the role of Java.”

“If before they had to execute extremely well to be successful, now they have to execute flawlessly,” Sloane said.

With its Java unit under Baratz’s helm, Sun had been known to frustrate some business partners -- including IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. -- with its insistence on keeping a tight rein over Java future development and evolution.

A sign that Baratz’s decision-making may have been challenged came when the Sun-Netscape Alliance opted to base a key product in its arsenal, its application server, on Netscape rather than on Sun NetDynamics’ code, some analysts said. Sun had acquired NetDynamics under Baratz’s watch.

Sun immediately appointed Jon Kannegaard, vice president and general manager of the Java platform, to fill Baratz’s post on an interim basis. A company spokeswoman said an aggressive search will be conducted for a permanent replacement.

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