IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

Summary: Google's going to win this one. They'll part with some cash, but in the end, they'll win.

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TOPICS: IBM, Android, Google, Oracle
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This summer, Oracle sued Google over Android's use of Java in what I thought was a dubious leveraging of Sun intellectual property to get a piece of the mobile pie. We've heard lots of rumblings and posturing on both sides, but it seems pretty likely that the Oracle/Android dust-up could drag on for a while. Monday, however, IBM shook things up a bit by throwing their support behind Oracle's version of Java.

While IBM has not backed Oracle's lawsuit against Google's use of Harmony (an Apache open source Java implementation used as the underpinnings of Google's Android operating system), it has effectively orphaned Android as a Harmony-based platform. IBM was formerly a major player in Harmony development and struggled for years with first Sun and then Oracle to have it certified for Java compatibility and fully legitimize its use on IBM systems (and any others). However, as the Register described IBM's shift from Harmony to Oracle's OpenJDK Java implementation, Big Blue appears to have been backed into a corner:

The thing that seems to have brought IBM into Oracle's camp was a need to have Java progress. IBM is deeply invested in the success of Java, while Oracle's roadmap for JDK 7 and 8 had zero backing outside Oracle and Sun. And, with no Java Specification Requests (JSRs) yet in place, it seemed JSR 7 and 8 had little chance of being delivered on time.

It seems IBM blinked.

The New York Times put it a bit more diplomatically, but the message is the same:

But I.B.M. announced on Monday that after Oracle extended an olive branch, Big Blue decided to set aside past hostilities from the Sun days. I.B.M. said it would shift its Java development efforts from the initiative it sponsored, called Apache Harmony, to the one begun in 2006 by Sun, called OpenJDK.

“This should remove some of the uncertainty about the future of Java,” said Rod Smith, vice president for emerging technologies at I.B.M.

So where does this leave Google, Android, and its Harmony components? Android has become quite entrenched in the smartphone and embedded markets and is gaining strong developer support. Google is also a major development house using Oracle's OpenJDK. A major shift in codebase could badly hurt Android momentum and the ongoing conflict with Oracle can damage Google's considerable development efforts outside Android with OpenJDK, as well.

Some analysts believe (myself included) that Google is going to press ahead with their own Java development using what they largely view as open source tools to keep on being Google and the shepherd of Android. Others believe that there is going to be a serious licensing deal that frees Google to develop using Java technologies as it sees fit and further lines Oracle's pockets. Still others believe that Google will drop Harmony as well and join Oracle and IBM on the OpenJDK bandwagon, abandoning any Harmony-related code in Android.

If Android were still a fledgling platform on the Nexus One and a couple of T-Mobile phones, the latter would certainly be the easiest and cleanest choice legally. With Android as the mobile juggernaut that it is, however, and Google's seemingly endless cash reserves, I think a settlement is far more likely, and a big Google middle finger to Oracle more likely still. Google may very well end up parting ways with some of its cash and even some Android income, but the uninterrupted development of Android is far too critical for them to make the same leap that IBM announced.

Topics: IBM, Android, Google, Oracle

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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13 comments
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  • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

    two dinosaurs uniting to take on a top predator lol
    kdsandeep@...
    • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

      h t t p : / / 0 8 4 5 . c o m / I n r


      I tide fashion
      hbfjh
  • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

    Christopher, if Android does violate patents then it does violate patents no matter how you feel about it.
    illegaloperation
  • Google Took 1st Round w/ a Solid Left Jab to Oracle's Fat Gut!

    Google's response simply called a spade a spade or a hypocrite a hypocrite. They also.... (since nobody noticed) totally denied Android is in any way related to Java. The only way they are even remotely related is in being both runtime virtual machine environments. Other than that (since it's Open Source) it's easy to verify that there is absolutely no java byte code whatsoever in Android.

    It is a clean room developed VM runtime not so unlike what Microsoft did with .net after Sun spanked them on their Java VM clone. Android's Dalvik VM is not even a clone of Java!

    The only think Google did was use Harmony Libraries in a tool for Java developers to transcribed or transform them into DEX coded programs to run in Dalvik VM. All Google has to do is do like Apple. Require that all Applications be written in native DEX coded applications. They won't do that, but it would prove how independent Dalvik is of Java.

    First off contrary to Java, Dalvik is Registry based same as .NET and it is capable of running multiple instances simultaneously unlike Java as well. So it's not anymore related to Java than .NET is!!!
    i2fun@...
  • android income?

    there is none. android is a very costly way for google to protect their adware and spyware business in the mobil realm. they don't make any money from it (like most of their hardware partners), to the contrary, they probably already invested a few hundred millions with no business model for them and their hardware partners in sight. the ongoing legal threats by oracle, apple and microsoft won't make the situation better. ever wondered why wp7 has so many hardware partners with such an unproven new platform? the handset makers are hedging their android commitment. they are scared by the legal ramifications it seems to bring with it.
    banned from zdnet
    • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

      @banned from zdnet

      What are you smoking dude? Google's hardware partners are saving millions in licensing costs they would otherwise pay for WinMo or something like that. That is pure profit for them. Google is also making millions through app store and advertising.

      Vista Phone 7 have hardware partners? Looks like you are banned from reality.
      gnufreex
      • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

        @gnufreex
        wp7 has had hardware partners for quite some time... http://www.mobileburn.com/news.jsp?Id=10097 Not to mention that 10 phones were just announced with posted release dates.
        R3fleX
    • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

      @banned from zdnet

      Nice fantasy you've got there. Reality of the success of Android is already well known in the market, since everyone wants a piece of Android, indicating overwhelming success. Apple has pioneered the smartphone idea, but copying in the software industry is known as competition, and was in place long before software could be patented in the USA in 1998.
      DonRupertBitByte
      • Just to give credit where it's due

        @Banned from ZDnet <br><br>It was Handspring (now the Palm part of HP) with the Treo that really started the modern smartphone revolution, and there were Symbian devices, and even the Nokia N9000 before that...<br><br>But Apple did somehow convince everyone that they invented the smartphone. Although I would argue that, if one wants to be an absolute stickler for details, the iPhone *isn't* a smartphone at all, but just a really, really smart featurephone.
        x I'm tc
      • facts

        @DonRupertBitByte
        there is no "reality of android's success well known in the market", what a load of bs. android has a good ride because it is free (at least it was until oracle, apple and microsoft started to sue motorola, htc and google).

        just look at the numbers of the android phone makers for the horrible state the android community is in: all numbers are q2 2010, in $
        motorola mobile division: operating loss of 109 million
        lg mobile division: loss of 101.2 million
        sony ericsson: a tiny profit of 15,5 million
        samsung mobile division: a profit of 533 million (most of it through cheap feature phones)
        htc: a profit of 268 million

        so combined the leading android makers had a profit of 600 million in q2 2010. (for reference apple had a an estimated iphone profit of around 2 bn in q2 2010). google probably invested a few hundred millions already in android and made a little money on mobile search, they will never be able to recoup their investment however. the mobile search market is still in its infancy and will be tiny for years to come.
        banned from zdnet
      • iphone

        @jdakula
        no one ever said apple invented the smartphone, clearly not apple. they re-invented it however with an all capacitive touchscreen and app centric approach with an emphasis on ui and usability. before the iphone, you had to use a stylus and go through very complicated menus to use them. the iphone changed all that. since then almost any modern smartphone is a copy of the iphone concept. have a look here:
        http://www.marco.org/980434663
        banned from zdnet
      • RE: IBM and Oracle vs. Android? Good luck with that

        @banned from zdnet <br><br>Pioneered (v): to have taken part in the beginnings of; initiated<br><br>Apple was not a smartphone pioneer. They were late to the game. The iPhone looks VERY much like a Treo, without a keyboard.<br><br>That said, they executed beautifully and reaped a huge reward. No question they innovated, but theirs was an evolution of an existing idea that centered around refining an experience in ways not yet done. Thus, they added real value to, but they did not pioneer in, the smartphone space.<br><br>That's my only point.
        x I'm tc
  • reality of android's success well known in the market

    @banned from zdnet

    200,000 Android devices activated a day, I call that success, and the fastest growing platform...
    skelden