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Oracle vs Google: Hoping For A Happy Ending

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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