Small chance of direct threat outside Android -- but a chilling effect could result
Oracle's suit against Google boils down to a claim that Google did not license the Java technology. In its defense, Google says it didn't actually use Java but instead reverse-engineered it. Oracle and Sun before it have offered the open source version of Java via the GPL (Gnu General Public License). The commercially licensed version also has been available. Google declined to say whether it has licensed either the GPL or commercial version of Java in Android.
The focus on licensing likely means few other Java users are in Oracle's sight. IDC's Hilwa says that organizations like IBM and Red Hat's JBoss group are not impacted by the lawsuit because they are Oracle licensees. "Almost everybody who uses Java licenses Java. Sony licenses Java for Blu-ray," he adds. "Really, nobody should be concerned about this unless they have a parallel implementation of Java that is not licensed and is making money."
Hilwa says the issue is preventing Java fragmentation, such as through the developments of near-clones like Android. "It's a standard [intellectual property] protection lawsuit and protection of the value of Java from fragmentation," he says. Java's premise is write once, run anywhere, Hilwa noted. Having multiple, unlicensed implementations like Android could undermine Java's value proposition, he says.
"Clearly, Oracle is a strong believer in software patents. And if they can use patents as a lever for revenue generation, they will," says RedMonk analyst Michael Cote.
Most likely, Oracle is looking for a financially or strategically favorable settlement, Cote says. "I think Oracle is trying to clean up the loosey-goosey [intellectual property] enforcement around Java and try to build revenue around it. Sun wasn't always the best at making money off Java -- compared to BEA, IBM, Oracle, and so on -- and Oracle must be looking for some more direct revenue for the platform and language. Being 'free,' however, is a massive part of what makes Java attractive versus, say, .Net."
But there's a danger to Oracle's strategy, Cote says: "The troubling aspect is how other companies in the Java community feel about this. Other licensees were already a bit freaked out about Oracle taking over, and I'm sure this kind of thing makes them want to switch from relying on Java to some degree."
Companies with vested interest in Java or Android, including IBM, Motorola, and Red Hat, declined to comment on the matter.
This story, "Developers unhappy over Oracle Android suit," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in programming at InfoWorld.com, and get the first take on key tech news with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.