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Oracle vs Google: Hoping For A Happy Ending

08.16.2010
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Like most Java developers, I feel disappointed in the lawsuit that Oracle has brought up against Google.  With Android, Java had become a key technology for mobile application development. Contrasting Android to JavaME makes you appreciate what Google had done for Java developers. JavaME may have been installed on a lot of phones, but it wasn't nearly as accessible or feature rich as Android is. I certainly don't want to see Google move to a different technology for Android.

However, in his most recent post, James Gosling notes that one of the big problems that still surrounds Android is fragmentation:
"When it came to cellphones and JavaME, we weren't as able and successful at achieving interoperability. There were a lot of factors, but it all added up to pain for developers and a chilling of the software market. When Google came to us with their thoughts on cellphones, one of their core principles was making the platform free to handset providers. They had very weak notions of interoperability, which, given our history, we strongly objected to. Android has pretty much played out the way that we feared: there is enough fragmentation among Android handsets to significantly restrict the freedom of software developers. "

OK, so the fragmentation issue is a bit of a problem, but it's much better than Java developers being left out in the cold in the mobile app market.  Fabrizio Giudici has a more optimisitic outlook where he points out that there could be a happy ending to all of this, including the solution to the fragementation issue:

"We as a community win all the same, because we get with a defragmented Java™ on the mobile and Java™ is the winner technology of the mobile world, relegating the competition to a niche, just like the old good glorious times of JME."

I'd definitely be happy with the outcomes that he suggests, but I fear they might be just too optimistic.

The suitability of patents in the software world is often questioned, but they're here, and as Gosling says, they are a necessary part of the business game ("the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure."). Except in the case of Apple, and now Oracle, patents are being used as a method of attack. In fact, you could think of Apple's lawsuits against HTC as the device side of a two pronged attack on Google's newfound mobile dominance. Of course that's just speculation and conspiracy theory. But you never know.

Daniel Eran Dilger has written a really good opinion piece about the whole Google vs Oracle saga, including this interesting observation of how this could be "the software patent war  to end all wars":

"If Oracle is successful in its bid to “impound and destroy” the heart of Google’s Android, it might result in more than just a massive upheaval of the smartphone industry and a congratulatory high fiving between Jobs and Ellison. It might also result in a concerted effort by Google to join Oracle and other tech giants to decommission the nuclear threat of software patent proliferation in the future."

I remember during Oracle's acquisition of Sun, that most people believed that Java was just a useful side-benefit, with Sun's hardware being the main draw for Oracle. Looks like Java might make Oracle some money after all, even if it's at the cost of the Java community.  It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. It would be encouraging if Oracle was to stand down, give the communities widespread disapproval of this move.

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Comments

Otengi Miloskov replied on Mon, 2010/08/16 - 12:57pm

I think is to optimistic this article. In the real life the most what matters is $$$ so Oracle have to get back what they invest on Sun and Java even Java community disappear Oracle needs their money back and they could use Java just for inhouse and their customers as with abap and SAP. Also future version of Java Oracle can relicensing to proprietary license so that will be really bad and maybe some people will want to fork OpenJDK 6. So will be OpenJDK6 forks everywhere. Me I think this is a vicious circle already, Java is not an "open standard" is a proprietary platform of Oracle and they can do what ever they like with it of course.

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Mon, 2010/08/16 - 4:35pm

Just a precisation. As I said in the preamble of my post, mine is not a forecast, in the sense that I really can't associate a probabilty to my scenario; it's not my job and I'm unable to make forecasts. I've just formulated a possibility, just to counterbalance the doomsday predictions (mostly made by people who are unable to make forecasts as well) and show that there can be even positive outcomes, so we can have a more complete picture. Only time will tell. In any case, James, thanks for quoting me :-)

Anyway, I'd like to point out that there are some business analists that are moderately optimistic as well: http://blogs.forbes.com/taylorbuley/2010/08/13/android-lawsuit-is-really-just-oracle-flirting-with-google/

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Mon, 2010/08/16 - 4:54pm

For what concerns your last statement. Ellison said: Java is the most valuable assets of our Sun acquisition. So, what's the surprise?

 

Daniele Gariboldi replied on Tue, 2010/08/17 - 2:44am

I think Google should join its forces with other big players such as IBM. The patents cited by Oracle are about virtual machines, and IBM has proven previous art and patents on this subject: remember its mainframes, where hardware changed along time with no change on OS or software.

And IBM, as well as SAP and others, have massively invested in Java as a platform. So Goggle, IBM and others should join their patents (and lawyers) to fight Oracle claims on the VM concepts.

Java as a language could be left to Oracle, but the VM "idea" is invaluable. In this regard, how Microsoft is immune about its dotNET VM ? Perhaps because they already paid Sun before and exchange few patents ?

Dalvik was developed when java was not yet GPLed and CPU had not the power of a 1Ghz ARM at minimum, but what if Android 3.0 would be based on OpenJAVA, plus custom libraries added ? Technically this should be almost effortless, and easier to defend in court.

So go now for openJAVA everywhere, desktop server and mobile unified. Carry opensource to its extreme consequencies and show how Oracle is a company of the previous century .

Otengi Miloskov replied on Tue, 2010/08/17 - 1:32pm in response to: Fabrizio Giudici

Forbes article that Fabrizio posted is totally wrong the author say "“Android” is an operating system written in Java mostly by a company bought by Google" me too I was wrong before I though Dalvik used Harmony but it is not Dalvik is not Java as Linux is not Unix. Dalvik, Android and all is nothing about Java. You code Java syntax but its not even Java5 or Java6 syntax. As I said Even right now Oracle back off of this stupidity already Java and Open Source community got hurt, This artcile/blog is to optimistic. The true is Oracle and Larry give a sh*t about Java and the community, Larry Ellison is a brilliant business man and he is only interested in what he knows to do is MONEY, Show me the Money that his mantra.

Fabrizio Giudici replied on Tue, 2010/08/17 - 2:14pm in response to: Otengi Miloskov

Unfortunately it's difficult to find precise technical details on non-technical newspapers and magazines - I've read some similar inaccurate technicality on money.cnn.com and such. But those articles are not looking at a technical perspective and, even though people should really try to be more accurate, those details don't jeopardize their analysis (they could be right or wrong for other reasons).

But you've been inaccurate too: 1) Android does use parts of Harmony for the runtime, Dalvik being only the VM 2) The syntax is definitely Java 5 - also because when you develop for Android you use a regular Java compiler (from the Sun JDK, or Eclipse, or such).

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