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Sun Co-Founder Joy Departing Company

Bill Joy was a computer wunderkind in Ann Arbor and Berkeley, before joining his Stanford cohorts to create Sun Microsystems. Now at 48, the decision has been made that Joy will be moving onto new ventures.

On Tuesday, Sun Microsystems announced that its co-founder and chief scientist Bill Joy will be leaving the company.

Joy joined Sun back in 1982, the year the company was created and has been a leading designer of Sun's key technologies, including Solaris software, SPARC microprocessors and Java technology.

"Joy's responsibilities will transition to Greg Papadopoulos, chief technology officer and executive vice president, Sun Microsystems," Sun said in a press release on Tuesday.

In Sun's statement, Joy was quoted as saying "the time is now right for me to move on to different challenges." It's not clear if there was a clash of ideas, or if Joy simply decided he wanted to move onto other opportunities.

For its part, Sun said while it values Joy's contributions over the past 21 years, it still has an excellent technical and engineering staff. Papadopoulos will be able to lean on the 12 Sun Fellows and 80 engineers, including James Gosling, the man credited with designing the Java technology.

The seminal design for the Unix workstation was developed by the co-founders of Sun, several who were graduate students at Stanford University. The name Sun originally stood for Stanford University Network, and the other founders beside Joy, included Scott McNealy, Vinod Khosla and Andy Bechtolsheim.

Prior to co-founding Sun, Joy was the designer on the Berkeley version of the UNIX operating system, which was a pioneering kernel in the evolution of open source operating systems and their relation to the Internet.

While at Berkeley, Joy became the principal designer of the Berkeley version of UNIX (BSD). BSD introduced virtual memory and networking using TCP/IP to Unix, and it became the standard operating system for educational and research computers, including those operated by DARPA. As a result, Joy is considered a pioneer of the open source movement, Fortune magazine once gave him their cover with the moniker the "Edison of the Internet."

Joy is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and has 44 patents issued or in progress. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan, and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley, according to Sun's Web site.

Perhaps one of the 44 patents under review will provide some clue of what's next for Bill Joy?

"He's going to take some time to research several different opportunities," said May Petry, spokesperson for Sun Microsystems.

On the topic of the 44 patents, one question is: who holds the legal rights to the intellectual property? While Joy played an integral role in the development of the prospective patent technologies, he most likely did the bulk of the work at Sun along with other colleagues and engineers of the company.

Petry was not able to comment on the contractual details of any of the 44 pending patents. She refused to discuss any specific ventures that Bill Joy may pursue.