Android app builders: What Oracle lawsuit?

AnDevCon developer conference bubbled with enthusiasm despite cloud of litigation hanging over Google's mobile platform

Although Oracle is suing Google over the search giant's Android mobile software platform, developers at an Android developer event this week remained undaunted in backing the platform.

Attendees at the AnDevCon conference, which attracted about 800 developers, heard Wednesday about the newly released Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform, which makes accommodations for tablet devices; they also got a brief glimpse of future plans to bring Honeycomb capabilities to smaller-screen devices.

[ Also at AnDevCon, a Motorola Mobility official acknowledged fragmentation concerns related to Android. | Learn how to manage iPhones, Androids, BlackBerrys, and other smartphones in InfoWorld's 20-page Mobile Management Deep Dive PDF special report. ]

Oracle's lawsuit filed last summer, however, alleges that Android infringes Java patents and copyrights Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. Oracle is seeking treble damages and an order stopping Google from any further infringement.

Some attendees, however, were not very familiar with the lawsuit, and AnDevCon conference chair Alan Zeichick, of BZ Media, said the litigation was not impacting the event. (AnDevCon was held this week in San Mateo, Calif., about 10 minutes from Oracle headquarters in Redwood City.) "I can can honestly say you were the first person to even bring it up," Zeichieck said.

But developer Sanjeev Tirunagaram said he did bring up the issue in a conference session on Monday. Still, Tirunagaram is not prepared to abandon Android development. "[The lawsuit] won't affect the developer at the end of the day because no matter what, they're not going to shut [Android] down. They're going to settle the case one way or the other," said Tirunagaram, a student at California State University, Northridge, and an intern at T-Mobile.

Other developers concurred. "I think it's just about a big paycheck in the end, and it'll settle itself out," said Wes Richardet, project scientist with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

Skeptical of Oracle's grounds for the lawsuit, developer Joshua Frank said the most of the code Google was using was open source. If the lawsuit does indeed have any legitimacy, Google will settle with Oracle, said Frank, of game builder Tesseract Mobile. "Android's a pretty major development platform, and they're not just going to let it go away," Frank said.

Asked about the lawsuit, Google software engineer Romain Guy went silent. Just prior, he and co-presenter Chet Haase, of the Google Android team, had preached the benefits of Android 3.0 and its capabilities, such as the Renderscript 3D graphics and a hardware-accelerated browser.

Android 3.0's Fragments capability enables developers to build an application for different form factors with minimal amounts of code required per situation. Fragmentation in the Android platform itself, in which there are differentiations in the Android platform between different systems, was lauded by Richardet. "I think fragmentation is good just because it forces a developer to actually take advantage of the differences in the devices," Richardet said.

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