On Thursday, August 12th, ORACLE revealed itself to be a devious money-monger and an enemy of the Open Source community as it filed a lawsuit in San Francisco U.S. District Court against Google, Inc.
ORACLE claims that Google “knowingly, directly, and repeatedly,” violated the terms of agreement in the use of Java in the development of the Android operating system (ComputerWorld, 13-Aug-2010).
SUN employees knew this lawsuit was coming. From James Gosling’s Blog recounting the integration meeting between Sun and ORACLE,
“During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer’s eyes sparkle. Filing patent suits was never in Sun’s genetic code.”
In particular, the lawsuit addresses a unique component of Android, called Dalvik VM. Dalvik VM is a software component that allows computer code to run in its own unique memory space, hence the “VM” part of the name, “virtual machine.” Allowing computer code to run in its own “virtual machine” allows multiple computer programs to run simultaneously without running into each other and crashing, or without slowing down processing. Makes for a great operating system enhancement for a smartphone, where a user might want to run two or three programs plus connect to Wi-Fi, 3G, or tether a laptop.
Google uses the Java language to generate Dalvik files for use in the Dalvik VM. That use of Java, the use of Dalvik, and the Dalvik VM is what has ORACLE riled.
Mr. Gosling was an architect behind the development of Java and is concerned about both the future of Java, and of Solaris, the open-source operating system developed at Sun. Java developers have left over the years; some, like Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, went to work for Google.
According to Gosling, Solaris’s fate might be sealed by the shear number of Solaris team members leaving.
“It’s Solaris I’m really fearful for: I wish theÂ Illumos folks well, but the data on Solaris so far is pretty discouraging. If only because the rate at which key technologists from Sun have been fleeing Oracle’s culture of fear has been so high that there’s almost no one left.”
Google has a couple avenues to choose from. First, take on ORACLE in court, and probably lose. Consensus seems to be that while Google has developed an excellent development environment, they have done so at their own risk. Sun Microsystems did not care how Java was used, only that it was useful. ORACLE wants compensation, and a court fight will be lengthy, expensive, and likely result in a loss by Google.
Secondly, Google could face the fact that they got off easy for a year or so, and pay licensing fees to ORACLE for a supposedly open-source development environment. Analysts worry that paying ORACLE sets a dangerous precedent. Java, as an open-source development environment, is not only used in smartphone development, but also for applications that run lots of other devices, such as DVD-players, automobile computers, and set-top boxes for cable and satellite TV. Developers of those applications could find themselves a target of ORACLE one day.
If Google finds a truce with ORACLE unlikely, it might be prudent to find a new or alternative environment for Android development. For a smartphone developer, that could be a huge setback, especially as Android-based phones are gobbling market share.
Preston Gralla, writing for ComputerWorld, sees this controversy as an opportunity for Microsoft’s Windows phones to set-up and grab some market. “Microsoft can also be helped because Oracle will now become public enemy number one in the open source community, rather than Microsoft” (ComputerWorld, 8-13-2010).
ORACLE now owns its own database systems, MySQL, Solaris, Java, and OpenOffice. All products, in some form or fashion, compete with Microsoft. With the current backlash against Larry Ellison and ORACLE, Microsoft could benefit.
Little has been said about Nokia, RIM, or HP in this mix. Nokia is the world leader in smartphone technology. A blow against Android/Google could allow a new leader to emerge in this smartphone race. Apple has the industry buzzing, Nokia is propped by nearly half the global market. RIM/Blackberry, lulled into complacency by its 40% U.S. market share, and a good chunk of the global market could regain some ground.
And then we have HP, famous years ago for the iPaq, and recently purchased Palm, Inc. in April 2010 – about the same time ORACLE bought Sun Microsystems. A stumble by Google, as Android hits a stride good be a good thing for HP/Palm and the PalmOs.
Source: ComputerWorld, CNET, International Business Times
Copyright 2010: Michael Busby