When Oracle bought Sun, it got Java. If you make your living in Java development, that statement can make you cringe, smile, or shrug—depending on how well you think Sun has handled owning Java, and whether you think Oracle will do better or worse. You might even believe that the Java platform is too entrenched for this deal to have any real impact.
For its part, Oracle announced the acquisition with praise for Java ("the most important software Oracle has ever acquired") and a commitment to keep it vibrant ("continued innovation and investment in Java technology for the benefit of customers and the Java community"). And you don't have to take Oracle's word for it; the company's software products ran on the Java platform long before it decided to buy Sun.
So what's really going to change for the Java developer? Following the money may provide an answer. The Java platform has spawned countless development projects over the years with Sun providing the care and feeding—read: cash and staff—for hundreds of them. Sun spends billions of dollars in R&D every year, much of it going to Java-based innovation. (Java itself came out of the Green Project at Sun back in 1990.) The problem for Sun seems to be turning innovation into profits; being bought by Oracle may mean the end of R&D without ROI.
Oracle expects Sun to contribute over $1.5 billion to its operating profit in the first year, according to Oracle President Safra Catz. To fulfill that mandate, Oracle may start pulling staff and funding from Sun Java projects that don't immediately contribute to the bottom line or at least show promise of contributing in the near future.
Instead of worrying about Java itself, the types of questions Java developers really need to ponder are: What's the return on investment for JavaFX? Is it possible to monetize Project Looking Glass? What would the migration from Project GlassFish to Oracle WebLogic Server be like? And so on and so on for all those cool, interesting projects that aren't paying their own way. Soon, it may be the communities—alone—who keep them going.
Now—are you cringing, smiling, or shrugging?