Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

Summary: By going for Google's second of only two fiscal jugular veins in Android (the other being paid search ads), Oracle has mightily disrupted the entire mobile world -- and potentially the full computing client market.

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The bombshell that Oracle is suing Google over Java intellectual property in mobile platform powerhouse Android came as a surprise, but in hindsight it shouldn't have.

We must look at the world through the lens that all guns are pointed at Google, and that means that any means to temper its interests and blunt it's potential influence are in play and will be used.

By going for Google's second of only two fiscal jugular veins in Android (the other being paid search ads), Oracle has mightily disrupted the entire mobile world -- and potentially the full computing client market. By asking for an injunction against Android based on Java patent and copyright violations, Oracle has caused a huge and immediate customer, carrier and handset channel storm for Google. Talk about FUD!

Could Oracle extend its injunctions requests to handset makers and more disruptively for mobile carriers, developers, or even end users? Don't know, but the uncertainty means a ticking bomb for the entire Android community. Oracle's suits therefore can't linger. Time is on Oracle's side right now. Even Google counter-suing does not stop the market pain and uncertainty from escalating.

We saw how that pain works when RIM suffered intellectual property claims again its Blackberries, when RIM was up against a court-ordered injunction wall. Fair or not, right or not, they had to settle and pay to keep the product and their market cap in the right motion. And speed was essential because investors are watching, wondering, worrying. Indeed, RIM should have caved sooner. That's the market-driven, short-term "time is not on our side" of Google's dilemma with Oracle's Java.

When Microsoft had to settle with Sun Microsystems over similar Java purity and license complaints a decade back, it was a long and drawn out affair, but the legal tide seemed to be turning against Microsoft. So Microsoft settled. That's the legal-driven, long-term "time is not on our side" of Google's dilemma with Oracle's Java.

Google is clearly in a tough spot. And so we need to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

Not about the money

RIM's aggressors wanted money and got it. Sun also needed money (snarky smugness aside) too, and so took the loot from Microsoft and made it through yet another fiscal quarter. But Oracle doesn't need the money. Oracle will want quite something else in order for the legal Java cloud over Android to go away.

Oracle will probably want a piece of the action. But will Oracle be an Android spoiler ... and just work to sabotage Android for license fees as HP's WebOS and Apple's iOS and Microsoft's mobile efforts continue to gain in the next huge global computing market, that is for mobile and thin PC clients?

Or, will Oracle instead fall deeply, compulsively in love with Android ... Sort of a Phantom of the Opera (you can see Larry with the little mask already, no?), swooping down on the sweet music Google has been making with Android, intent on making that music its own, controlled from its own nether chambers, albeit with a darker enterprise pitch and tone. Bring in heavy organ music, please.

Chances are that Oracle covets Android, believes its teachings through Java technology (the angel of class libraries) entitles it to a significant if not controlling interest, and will hold dear Christine ... err, Android, hostage unless the opera goes on the way Oracle wants it to (with license payments all along the way). Bring in organ music again, please.

Trouble is, this phantom will not let his love interest be swept safely back into the arms of Verizon, HTC, Motorola and Samsung. Google will probably have to find a way make to make music with Oracle on Android for a long time. And they will need to do the deal quickly and quietly, just like Salesforce.com and Microsoft recently did.

What, me worry?

How did Google let this happen? It's not just a talented young girl dreaming of nightly rose-strewn encores, is it?

Google's mistake is it has acted like a runaway dog in a nighttime meat factory, with it fangs into everything but with very little fully ingested (apologies to Steve Mills for usurping his analogy). In stepping on every conceivable competitors' (and partners') toes with hubristic zeal -- yet only having solid success and market domination in a very few areas -- Google has made itself vulnerable with its newest and extremely important success with Android.

Did Google do all the legal blocking and tackling? Maybe it was a beta legal review? Did the Oracle buy of Sun catch it off-guard? Will that matter when market perceptions and disruption are the real leverage? And who are Google's friends now when it needs them? They are probably enjoying the opera from the 5th box.

Android is clearly Google's next new big business, with prospects of app stores, and legions of devoted developers, myriad partners on the software and devices side, globally pervasive channels though the mobile carriers, and the potential to extend same into the tablets and even "fit" PCs arena. Wow, sounds a lot like what Java could have been, what iOS is, and what WebOS wants to be.

And so this tragic and ironic double-cross -- Java coming back to stab Google in the heart -- delivers like an aria, one that is sweet music mostly to HP, Apple, and Microsoft. [Disclosure: HP is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

[UPDATE: The stakes may spread far beyond the mobile market into the very future of Java. Or so says Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond, who argues that, in light of Oracle’s plans to sue Google over Android,  “…this lawsuit casts the die on Java’s future."

"Java will be a slow-evolving legacy technology. Oracle’s lawsuit links deep innovation in Java with license fees. That will kill deep innovation in Java by anyone outside of Oracle or startups hoping to sell out to Oracle. Software innovation just doesn’t do well in the kind of environment Oracle just created," said Hammond.]

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Topics: Mobility, Android, Google, Open Source, Oracle, Software Development

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48 comments
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  • BWA HA HA!

    Google.
    ericesque
    • A beta legal review?

      LOL
      nomorebs
  • Oracle wants a piece of the pie!

    It's looking more and more like Android will become the 'Windows' of the mobile devices. One day soon you will see 90+% of the phones in the world with Android and apple with its piddly 3-4%. Once that happens, apple will be a thing of the past http://bit.ly/duginQ
    ALISON SMOCK
    • Yeah there is absolutely zero reason to believe that

      WP will have all the device oems and carriers that android does, a much better ui, just as many apps but with higher quality, and better marketing. add to that that the oems dont care about the licensing because they just pass it on, that 99.999% of consumers dont care about the os, and that of the very few that do about 35% say they wouldnt buy an android phone again. No theres no reason to believe WP wont have higher market share than android in 4-5 years...
      Johnny Vegas
      • From a WP7 enthusiast

        @Johnny Vegas
        Momentum is a tricky thing in business. Consumers in general--but especially in the smartphone market-- have been extremely unpredictable in recent years. I like WP's chances, but there's nothing certain about its future.
        Consumers cut companies a lot of slack with new smartphone platforms, but as details trickle out, it seems Microsoft has been very liberal in deciding which features will not be present at launch. That could be dangerous considering Android has all the momentum and iPhone has a large stalwart user-base.
        I sincerely hope you are correct, but I can see plenty of threads to pull if you're looking for reasons to believe WP will be trailing Android market share in 4-5 years.
        ericesque
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @Johnny Vegas: you seem to have pretty good sources for a device that haven't even been released. It's like saying that IE9 will surely steal all of Firefox's market-share, just because it fares better on CSS3 tests.

        Then again, Windows Vista was supposed to be a better OS than Mac OS X, safer than Linux and compatible with Windows. In the end, none of this arguments were valid and XP turned out better than Vista. Interesting what releasing can do to software, ain't it?
        cosuna
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @Johnny Vegas
        The winning feature of Windows Phone 7 is controlled. Microsoft is not going to let WP7 into fragmentation mess that will destroy Android and has done so to Windows Mobile.
        illegaloperation
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @ericesque
        I agree with whatever you said, but having said that, mobile phone market is not like desktop computers and things can get changed over night and Apple proved it already. Look at RIM and Nokia, they are running for their money. And the same thing can happen to Google or Apple from current underdog in Mobile field (Microsoft) or restructured RIM, Nokia or for that matter WebOS.
        Ram U
        • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

          @cosuna
          Hi other than half-brained media and Open Source Lunatics and whoever bought into Apple's FUD at that time Vista was decent and wasn't a failure like Windows ME. So your comment on Vista is plain wrong and biased.
          Ram U
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @Johnny Vegas
        Windows Phone 7, if Microsoft plays it cards well, has the advantages of iPhone and Windows Mobile/Android. It enjoys iPhone like controlled User Experience, and Windows Mobile/Android like different makers, form factors and hardware specs. The good thing about it is the minimum hardware specs are specified and both Windows Mobile and Android lack that. The lack of control on User Experience and lack of specs led both WM and Android into fragmentation.
        Ram U
    • Heard that before

      @stebidri

      Like when Plays For not Sure was released.
      Bruizer
    • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

      @stebidri People have been saying for YEARS that Apple will be a thing of the past... just like some have been saying that *insert year here* will be the year of Linux...

      We all see how that's all worked out so far...
      athynz
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @athynz
        Well said!
        Ram U
    • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

      @stebidri Trouble is the OEMs are screwing it up for Google. Doing to Android what they do to Windows, installing lots of software of dubious quality and usefulness at the factory, often the user cannot remove it. Now the networks are doing the same (I see Vodafone in the UK) and this has the potential to really hurt Android.

      This is a fairly recent phenomenon for Windows, I wonder if Windows would have achieved dominance in the market if the OEMs had behaved like this from the beginning.

      As for Oracle, well I think it's a little more than wanting "a piece of the pie"; Google have created an incompatible version of Java (programs compiled for Android only run in the Dalvik VM, they are incompatible with the JRE). This has to represent a threat to "real" Java and I see Oracle have no real option but to defend Java in court. I'm not sure Oracle just want "the money", it maybe more complex than that. They may want Google in use the official JRE (Java Embedded) and pay the fees, more than "just cash". This would stop a fracturing of Java and ensure an ongoing revenue stream.

      I imagine Apple are laughing themselves silly.
      Jeremy-UK
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @Jeremy-UK
        Thing is Google have never said Androids run java, nor marketed them as such. They use Java as an input langauge for whatever reason - but they don't care about langauge, they just need something.
        If Oracle becomes a nuisance, they could just make a compiler which could accept Visual Basic instead.
        Everq
    • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

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      tank33
  • What is google revenue from android?

    its not licensed is it? are you just talking about app store cut? if youre counting the mobile search ad revenue I'd still count that toward search not android because theyd probably be getting that even if all of androids market share was ios.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

      @Johnny Vegas

      Ofcourse Android phones are licensed not the "core android os" i.e. All the important apps like mail client, Marketplace, navigation (?) etc are licensed. Do you see any Android phones that dont have these? ofcourse not.

      Android phones (or the os+features ) being completely open-source and Free is a myth.
      5ri
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @5ri
        Correct. Not only that Android is not Open Source because the makers and carriers can lock the system and control the FOTA.
        Ram U
      • RE: Google needs to know: What does Oracle really want with Android?

        @5ri
        Do you have a link to the prices?
        Everq