08 April 2016

06 January 2016

The battle between Oracle and Google could heavily influence the fate of Android

Synopsis

Oracle and Google have this South Korea / North Korea relationship of fierce rivalry, that makes us question what is good and what is right. Oracle made this huge claim that Google have infringed their rights by using Java technologies (APIs to be more specific) in their hugely successful Android platform. Initially the claim was dismissed by the District Court, but then the US Appeals Court overturned this decision and sent the matter back to the District Court for further proceedings.

Google now rely on their initial claim that the usage of the infringed code could be considered "fair use", but in the same time Oracle have waived their fists, claiming newly released devices continue to infringe their rights and Google aims at destroying the Java market.

New developments

A new chapter in this, now 6 years old, battle is Google deciding to incorporate OpenJDK in Andoid. This step would most probably not have any impact on the ongoing legal battle, but it does bring up a few questions. Although the obvious speculation could be that this is a step towards settling the feud outside the court, Google have described this step as one that would help involve the community even more in developing the Android platform, something that they have aimed from the days it was initially created.

The Android teams have supported and improved on their own the Apache Harmony-based runtime after it was dropped by Apache in 2011. Without a doubt removing it in favor of the OpenJDK would release a lot of pressure from their development teams.

Is there a catch?

There might be. Andreas Gal, the former CTO of Mozilla, argued that this decision is
"a huge change [that] will have far-reaching implications for Android and the Android ecosystem"
His major concern is that of licensing and particularly would Oracle try to leverage it's control over the OpenJDK, affecting decision about the future of the Android platform. Although Google could easily decide to fork the OpenJDK themselves if they find the way it is evolving contrary to their plans of developing Android, thas would again lead them to square one - having to maintain a port of the Java runtime themselves, without the help of the community.

Another part of his argument is the huge change that is required in order to actually make this technological shift a fact. The Apache Harmony and OpenJDK runtimes have been developed in parallel for a number of years and have thus taken different paths. One could easily expect issues during this migration (consider the amount of application built over the Apache Harmony Andoid) and even worse - performance optimization hacks that could suddenly stop working or require development.