Sun/Google Android "fight" overblown

Sun/Google Android "fight" overblown

Summary: Ever since Google kicked off the Open Handset Alliance and released the "gPhone" Android SDK for mobile devices, the blogosphere has been buzzing about a new conflict brewing between Sun and Google over the future of Java. But I'm here to tell you, it's all bunk.


Sun/Google Android fight overblownEver since Google kicked off the Open Handset Alliance and released the "gPhone" Android SDK for mobile devices, the blogosphere has been buzzing about a new conflict brewing between Sun and Google over the future of Java. But I'm here to tell you, it's all bunk.

Wars, and rumors of wars, between corporate titans sell a lot of news print, even the electronic kind. So I'm not even going to link to all the articles where I've read about this so-called spat. (Besides, I'm too lazy to look them all up). However I do want to address the core disagreement that some say will divide the two companies.

While Android is based on a machine-independent VM architecture that compiles and runs code written in the Java language, it's not exactly Java (Tee eM). In particular it's a complete break from Sun's Java ME (Micro Edition) offering. A lot of propeller heads get their beanies in a twist whenever someone steps off the "standards" path, so predictably there were cries of "Why couldn't they just use Java ME?" But I believe there are many folks at Sun who are quietly saying "I wish we could have done that."

Let's face it, how many developers really like Java ME? How many can describe the difference between CLDC, CDC and MIDP? Between Foundation, Personal Basis, and Personal profiles? How many consider javax.microedition.lcdui the pinnacle of user interface design? Not many. (And if you're one of them, you should seriously consider therapy). Java ME has years of baggage and legacy API that Android ignores. Over-complicated, and under-compatible, Java ME had backed itself into a corner, leaving the field open for competitors like Flash Lite to gain ground. Google's initiative opens a new chapter for Java (or 'Java-like', if you insist) technology.

However, Google did make one big mistake with Android, the same mistake that IBM made years ago - it cut them out of the process, at least in perception if not in fact. In IBM's case this resulted in a culture of distrust and dis-harmony (pun intended) between the two companies that continues today. Sun/IBM unity behind Java is a lost cause. But in Google's case, the outcome can/will/must be different.

A new generation of forward-thinking leadership is running Sun now. CEO Jonathan Schwartz once said "Innovation happens elsewhere." Well, here it is, happening right now at Google. Early indications are that Jonathan, at least, intends to embrace it. In his blog Schwartz wrote:

Google and the Open Handset Alliance just strapped another set of rockets to the community's momentum - and to the vision defining opportunity across our (and other) planets.

Today is an incredible day for the open source community, and a massive endorsement of two of the industry's most prolific free software communities, Java and Linux.

Them's hardly fightin' words.

Topics: Google, Open Source, Oracle, Software Development

Ed Burnette

About Ed Burnette

Ed Burnette is a software industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience as a programmer, author, and speaker. He has written numerous technical articles and books, most recently "Hello, Android: Introducing Google's Mobile Development Platform" from the Pragmatic Programmers.

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  • true...

    OpenSource is never about fighting and wars.
    If two of the internet's biggest companies start fighting over open technologies what mess would it create.
    A rift b/w Sun and Google may turn out to be a big setback to opensource community, and i am sure guys at those companies realise that.
  • Sun vs Google vs Godzilla....

    I have developed a lot of stuff on all sorts of platforms.
    NONE have resolved the mess the mobile devices market is (and I am talking about basic OMA DM, OTA manageability & remote firmware management as absolutedly mandatory ! if you have millions of customers around messing with them phones)
    In MHO if Google does REALLY a good job it will KILL the rest fairly quickly, but they GOT TO THINK ABOUT THE MANAGEABILITY of the millions of devices BEFORE any of the fancy features & sexy fireworks.
    Worst thing an operator can have is millions of dead or misconfigured 6 megapixel TV enabled toys with you credit card nubers on them...
  • A pragmatic decision

    Easier to seek forgiveness than ask permission? Or in this case, easier to make the clean break with "real" Java, than to try and negotiate with Sun to come up with some compromise. This way, Google gets what they want, skipping the time-wasting talkfest that would have inevitably bogged down as Sun (understandably) resisted throwing out the past completely.

    Google can live without Sun in the Android alliance... but Sun may not be able to stay away. I predict Sun swallowing its pride and jumping on the bandwagon, with no more being said about Google's "non-standard" variant of Java.
    Jason Etheridge
  • Wish Microsoft would do this

    It's nice that Google is breaking free of a common burdensome Java VM in favor of a more easy to use VM that also has less legacy code. This will make it that much easier for developers to make great applications on the Android platform and it will increase performance as well. Now if only we could talk Microsoft into doing this, they still have the silly My Briefcase in Vista for peet sakes!

    - John Musbach
    John Musbach
    • Like M$ cares

      Microsoft is the 800 lb Gorilla in the neighborhood. They will follow their own counsel until someone takes hold of something that hurts them.
  • 64 Bit???

    The question is not whether the industry will go to 64bit, the question is when. If Android does not have a 64 bit version early on, it may impede adoption. I think of this because I am running 64 bit Linux on an AMD 64. There is no 64 bit Shockwave player. That means that I miss a few cute little clips and a whole lot of annoying advertisements.
    • Even on mobile?

      Do you think 64 bits will be needed on handheld devices in the foreseeable future? I kind of doubt it. Even 32 bits is "relatively" new there.
      Ed Burnette