Two years ago, I had the opportunity to interview Timothy Bray, recently of Sun Microsystems, and more recently hired by Google as an Android Developer Advocate. While at Sun, Tim was instrumental in the development of Java and, more importantly, its release under GPL. As most readers know, Google is embroiled in a lawsuit with Oracle over its use of Java in Android and the potential damages (read "royalties") to which Oracle believes it is entitled for Google's fork of the software.
Today, though, Groklaw posted a great summary of documents released by Oracle from Bray's time at Sun which, surprisingly, lend a great deal of credence to Google's arguments that they complied with all terms of the GPL and had no need to license anything other than the name "Java". The best line in the documents came from Tim Bray himself:
But I think there’ll be lots of forks, and I approve. I suspect that basement hackers and university CompSci departments and other unexpected parties will take the Java source, hack groovy improvements into it, compile it, and want to give it to the world. They’ll discover that getting their creation blessed as “Java” requires running the TCK/trademark gauntlet, which isn’t groovy at all. So they’ll think of a clever name for it and publish anyhow.
Which is terrific. I see no downside, and I see huge upside in that the Java mainstream can watch this kind of stuff and (because of the GPL) adopt it if it’s good, and make things better for everybody.
The clever name in this case is Dalvik, the virtual machine that runs the applications in Android. No, it wasn't basement hackers; it was Tim's future employer, Google, who took Java and ran with it. However, there is little doubt that when Google hired Tim for what sounded like one of the cushier jobs of his career (in title at least), they were, in fact, buying the inside track into Sun's intent around the open sourcing of Java. Long after Sun was gone, assimilated and generally erased by Oracle in 2009, Google ensured that it would have clear insight into the real story from Sun.
When I asked Tim (2 years ago) where he thought Android would be in 2 years (now), he saw Android and Apple duking it out for the long haul, envisioned superphones that would make the original Nexus look like a toy, and saw Nokia potentially leveraging its international market share. And here we are, with Nokia in partnership with Microsoft with the pending release of Windows 8 set to bring the third major competitor to the smartphone market for which he hoped. In terms of tablets, "He also mentioned the Barnes and Noble Nook, saying that where Android moves is largely up to the market. Everyone, however, is 'watching the iPad very closely.'"
And here we are, in a world much as he predicted, with Google more secure in the position of Android than they were yesterday before Oracle released the internal communications of one of Sun's star employees, a key architect of the Java GPL release, and now, their Android Developer Advocate.
Yes, I'd say that was a particularly strategic hire, wouldn't you?