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Google's New Android Advocate Comes Out Swinging

By Katherine Noyes
Mar 16, 2010 5:00 AM PT

Sun Microsystems' loss was Google's gain on Monday, as former Sun guru Tim Bray announced that he's joined Google's Android push in the role of Developer Advocate.

Google's New Android Advocate Comes Out Swinging

"Google and I have been a plausible match for a long time," Bray wrote in a blog post announcing the decision. "Web-centric, check. Search, check. Open-source, check. The list goes on."

Still, "the reason I'm here is mostly Android," he added, calling the platform "about as unambiguously a good thing as the tangled wrinkly human texture of the Net can sustain just now."

Bray resigned in late February from his position as director of Web technologies at Sun and declined an offer from Oracle in the meantime, he said. He will work remotely for Google from his current Vancouver, B.C., location.

Open Source Advocate

A longtime open source advocate, Bray's background includes cofounding the Open Text Corporation as well as launching Canadian business analytics firm Antarctica Systems.

He also worked on XML for the World Wide Web Consortium.

Bray has written numerous software applications, including Unix file system benchmarking tool Bonnie, XML processor Lark and APE -- the Atom Protocol Exerciser.

In his new role at Google, Bray didn't waste time before firing a few shots at Apple.

'A Sterile, Disney-fied Walled Garden'

The iPhone platform is "a sterile Disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers," Bray wrote. "The people who create the apps serve at the landlord's pleasure and fear his anger. I hate it."

The iPhone's hardware and software may be great, but "freedom's not just another word for anything, nor is it an optional ingredient," he explained.

"Apple apparently thinks you can have the benefits of the Internet while at the same time controlling what programs can be run and what parts of the stack can be accessed and what developers can say to each other," he added. "I think they're wrong and see this job as a chance to help prove it."

Bray also admitted he still has much to learn about the platform: "Are you an Android developer? Or might you become one? Or have you given up on Android? If you're any of these, you're a person I need to learn from," he said.

'A Win for Both'

"Bray's addition to Google generally and to Android specifically is a win for both," RedMonk analyst Stephen O'Grady told LinuxInsider. "Tim's intimately familiar with the Java ecosystem and, better, what it's done right and what it's done wrong. For that alone, his hiring would be worth it."

Even more important, however, is Bray's open-mindedness, O'Grady said.

"He has never been a Java bigot; he was a staunch advocate for dynamic languages and the REST architectural style during his tenure at Sun," O'Grady explained. "Whether that experience will manifest itself directly within the Android project is unclear, but he'll certainly look to keep the ecosystem as open as possible."

In short, "Google just gained themselves a widely respected and pragmatic developer advocate," he concluded.

'A Good Match'

Indeed, "it is a shrewd move to bring Tim Bray in as a figurehead for Android development," 451 group analyst Jay Lyman agreed. "As he's already demonstrated with some of his comments about the competition, he's not afraid to speak his mind nor to challenge others, whether he is competing or collaborating with them."

Lyman recently wrote a like-minded blog post about Apple and the opportunity it's created by keeping its platform closed.

While such assets have a potential to "contribute to further fragmentation for Android," they should serve him well in his new role, Lyman predicted.

"His technical and software development accomplishment and background combined with his outgoing nature should make him a good match for head Android wrangler," Lyman told LinuxInsider.


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