Oracle’s Suit Against Android Could Split Open Source

Oracle’s suit against Google for the use of Java in its Android portable operating system continues to reverberate through the open-source movement. In the newest development, Google has declined to participate in the upcoming JavaOne conference, an event formerly hosted by Java creator Sun Microsystems and now run by Sun’s new owner, Oracle.
Joshua Bloch of Google’s Open Source Programs Office, in a posting Friday on the company’s open-source blog, wrote that Google wished it could attend, “but Oracle’s recent lawsuit against Google and open source has made it impossible for us to freely share our thoughts about the future of Java and open source generally.” Bloch noted that the company had attended every JavaOne event since 2004.
Talks Between Google and Sun
Some observers are raising the possibility that, if the suit continues, Java may split into different versions, most notably a Google-branded version designed to avoid legal obstacles.
Others have warned that the battle could have unforeseen consequences for open-source software, which has found a home in many corporations. According to some estimates, as much as 75 percent of open-source software usage is inside corporations.
Oracle is viewed as trying to get as much leverage and revenue as possible from its Sun acquisition earlier this year.
In 2006, Sun made Java open source, hoping to increase its usage on the web and in data centers. When Google started developing its software platform for mobile devices, it founded the Open Handset Alliance and created Android on a Java path that it says diverged from Sun’s.
Google and Sun held talks over the last three years about remaining legal issues, but no agreement was reached. Reportedly, Sun chose not to sue Google over Java because Sun’s then-CEO Jonathan Schwartz was championing open source, including the use of an open-source version of the company’s Solaris operating system for data centers. Schwartz left after Oracle bought the company.
Google ‘Aware of Sun’s Patent Portfolio’
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California, contends that “Google’s Android competes with Oracle America’s Java as an operating system software platform for cellular telephones and other mobile devices.”
The lawsuit also said the search giant “has been aware of Sun’s patent portfolio,” and noted that it hired “certain former Sun Java engineers.”
Java is used in Google’s software development kit (SDK), and the Java-built applications are compiled to run in Google’s custom virtual machine, Dalvik, using the search giant’s custom versions of the compiler and runtime. Java has been attractive to developers in part because Java apps can be written once, and then can run on any platform that has the Java virtual-machine software.
Another development kit, the Android Native Development Kit, enables third-party developers to build apps in C and C++, although Java has remained the primary development language. The complaint said Android, the Android SDK, and Dalvik violate the seven Oracle patents cited in the lawsuit.
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