Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

Summary: Oracle tilting at Google over Java patents could represent a watershed moment. What are the implications for the other Big Dogs in the enterprise space?

SHARE:
TOPICS: Oracle
35

We all thought Java was open source. Think again. Joel West points out that:

Throughout its lifespan, Sun always had a schizophrenic view of open standards. Some of the things it did were very open, like giving away specs and/or implementations of things like RPC and NFS. Some of the things were traditional proprietary licensing models — akin to Microsoft or Intel — with SPARC chips, Solaris and the like.

On the other hand, Sun’s use of open source was always semi-open, as I noted in 2003 in my most oft-cited open source paper. In fact, Sonali Shah (now of U. Washington) coined the term “gated source” to refer to Sun’s use of open source-like approaches inside an extranet during the past 15 years or so.

Oracle's patent suit against Google seems to have taken many by surprise. I'm neither surprised nor stunned. If anything, I am surprised it has taken Oracle this long to saddle up its lawyers.

See also:

  • Oracle sues Google: Looking for a piece of the mobile pie
  • Oracle uses James Gosling patent to attack Google and Android developers
  • Oracle sues Google: titanic clash over Java platform looms
  • Oracle-Google suit challenges open source establishment
  • It now seems clear that Oracle's attempt to dominate the enterprise world is taking two carefully calculated paths: PR and the courtroom. It doesn't matter whether Oracle's claims are spurious or otherwise. Oracle is positioning itself as the only software vendor I know that plans to sue its way to success. That is a guaranteed road to ruin. Customers will be looking at this and wondering: 'Are we next?'

    Larry Dignan suggests:

    ...if you zoom out a bit you see where this is headed. Apple’s HTC lawsuit has a heavy dose of Android in it. Oracle is suing Google over the Java in Android. In journalism, there’s a saying that three makes a trend. Rest assured there will be another patent suit lobbed at Android from various parties. Android is on a tear, but Google may wind up licensing some patents along the way.

    What will happen with Oracle and Google? For starters, Oracle can play the courtroom game well—see Oracle vs. SAP/TomorrowNow for instance. Google could fight, but it may be far more expedient to just license the patents. Notice how quickly the Microsoft-Salesforce.com patent scrum was settledeven though Marc Benioff called the software giant a thug. Assuming Oracle’s points are valid, Google may just pay up and move along.

    I'd go much further but before doing so let's back up a touch.

    Google is certainly a Big Dog in the software business but it has made its bones on the presumption that software is (pretty much) free to use. At least at the consumer level. It makes a play at the enterprise with Google Apps and now with Android. It doesn't take too much imagination to realize that pressured CXOs might be forgiven for thinking that if they can divest themselves of office productivity applications at minimal run on cost then what next?

    Speaking with open source advocate Simon Wardley, his opinion comes in two parts:

    1. This is part of the normal banter between interested parties and what we're seeing is the outcome of talks that broke down
    2. Oracle is readying itself to become a PaaS play, doesn't have a current offering and is therefore testing the waters to see if it can make Java - its cornerstone - stand up as a proprietary offering.

    Simon asserts: "This has to be a concern - customers are heavily reliant upon Java which is taught widely in teaching institutions. The good news is that it will encourage the development of open source platform stacks and that has to be a good thing."

    If Simon is correct and Oracle wins then it brings into question whether there will be more lawsuits aimed at the likes of Springsource, VMWare and even Microsoft itself on the basis of whatever Java it has in Azure. Mary-Jo Foley thinks Microsoft must be rubbing its hands with glee:

    Even though the Redmondians have no love for Oracle and consider the company one of Microsoft’s foremost competitors, any attack on Google is no doubt a plus in Microsoft execs’ eyes. Oracle’s move gives Windows Phone 7 more air cover. Microsoft likely will benefit from the fallout of the suit to some degree as developers and customers wonder and worry about the fate of Android-based phones. The Oracle vs. Google lawsuit also may boost the Microsoft .Net to a degree, as .Net’s No. 1 rival is Java.

    In back channel conversations, colleagues are asking: what about IBM and SAP? These are good questions and I can only imagine that lawyers at both companies are carefully examining their potential exposure. When Oracle was tilting at Sun, Vishal Sikka, SAP board member and CTO warned:

    To ensure the continued role of Java in driving economic growth, we believe it is essential to transition the stewardship of the language and platform into an authentically open body that is not dominated by an individual corporation. Java should be free of any encumbrances to permit fair competition between compatible implementations for the benefit of customers. By preserving the integrity of Java, the IT industry can ensure a vibrant developer community and continued innovation for enterprise software customers. This ensures the continued global economic success brought about through open innovation.

    Will SAP be next in the cross hairs?

    It concerns me that Karen Tillman, head of Oracle PR is positioned as point on this. Given the potential for this lawsuit to represent a 'pebble in the pond' scenario, surely Oracle board members should be stating a position?

    More broadly, Oracle's persistent use of the legal hammer must be of concern to everyone in the IT industry and customers alike. Sure, the company has deep pockets but is this the future of IT business? Have we reached a point where developers might fear the lines of code they write in case they trip up over someone's patent/copyright claim? And what does this mean for buyers that customize using Java? Could it mean that Oracle comes knocking on their door looking for a financial slice of the pie?

    The usual course of IT lawsuits ends up with one company paying another. I have to wonder whether this case might be one of the very few that runs its course. Google can afford it, so can Oracle. Let the games begin.

    Topic: Oracle

    Dennis Howlett

    About Dennis Howlett

    Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

    Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

    Talkback

    35 comments
    Log in or register to join the discussion
    • Back away from Oracle!

      And will this pattern lead Oracle to also attack the MySQL market? Time for users of any Oracle related product to rethink things!

      Looks like we'll be no longer developing any of our future applications using any technology in any way related to Oracle.
      smack
    • Memo from Google: let's steal IP on our path to World domination.

      Might work both ways.
      Bruizer
      • No Kiding

        @Bruizer

        Funny when Google does the naughty, or Apple does the naughty, oh its okay, its good for us.

        But when big evil enterprises like Oracle or Microsoft attempt to protect what they have a right to protect they are vilified.

        @ smack

        How could you be sued for developing applications that use MySQL backends? Not sure where this softball came from...
        Raid6
        • You miss the Point!

          @Raid6, they HAVE no right to 'protect' this. The patents were invalid when they were granted. They are just more examples of the foul trend Knuth decried in http://eupat.ffii.org/gasnu/knuth/index.en.html when he said, "It worries me that most patents are about simple ideas that I would expect my students to develop them as part of their homework."
          mejohnsn
      • What "IP" was "stolen"?

        @Bruizer

        What was "stolen"? You can't "steal" something if no one "owns" it to begin with. You and I know full well that the patents in question are overly broad and defensive in nature and were never envisioned for this kind of action. I'll bet every single one of them could be argued to the SCOTUS and get overturned on obviousness or prior art. Furthermore, there's even the question of whether software patents *should* be valid.

        Google didn't "steal" anything from Oracle or Sun. They used knowledge that many who are "skilled in the art" consider to be common and available (even if there is a patent on such knowledge).

        If Google copied and pasted copyrighted code without permission then it's a different story. Infringement is a violation of the law and it's wrong. I would like to know what, if anything, that Google supposedly copied. My guess is that Oracle is just being like SCO in this regard.

        Oracle's behavior is damaging to pretty much everyone in the software business - even Oracle. Would you want to do business with them? If you do then you belong to an endangered species.

        Let's hope Google comes up with a clever response that promotes free and open source software and that punishes thuggish behavior.

        -MC
        Mercutio_Viz
    • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

      A world dominated by Oracle is better than a world dominated by M$, but still the software should be free.
      As for the suit it's only fodder for 'pundits' and traitors like like Miguel de Icaza: http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2010/Aug-13.html
      to sell their M$ endorsed wares.
      Linux Geek
      • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

        @Linux Geek
        not quite true, at least M$ makes sure to charge you in advance and to make it clear that its code is not, will never be open source, so be warned while using it.
        Oracle on the other hand is using Java as a Trojan horse to infiltrate IT companies and decide when it is the most profitable to sue.
        samiup
      • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

        @Linux Geek <br>If you had an organization like I do that by necessity used both Oracle and MS software, you might not think so highly of Oracle-domination... The costs of licensing and maintaining (via required maintenance fees and staffing) Oracle is bat-s*** crazy compared to comparable offerings from MS.
        RandomChimp
        • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

          @RandomChimp
          I agree..sort of. Oracle is CRAZY when it comes to cost. They are also buggy as heck.
          MS is on the downward slide, so other vendors may enter the picture... like Red Hat, or Canonical as an example.

          JAVA will be around awhile (tomcat, jboss, ..etc so weblogic can go away.)
          Oracle still has one of the best RDBMS (bugs aside), but postgres can meet most people's needs.

          Oracle is sneaky (not in a good way) so don't let your guard down. :)
          sys_engineer
        • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

          @RandomChimp On a long term MS cannot compete open source with the current product line - Shrinkwrap is over. I have no fear that they will starve from hunger. I think they have decided to concentrate on the mid range businesses. Oracle is somehow crazy for sure if you are mid-range but then this DB is not for you. This is PostgreSQL under Linux ...
          michaelthuma2
      • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

        @Linux Geek

        Your logic is utterly frightening.

        A world dominated by a superior dictator is your preference?

        Wow!!!
        Raid6
      • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

        @Linux Geek

        You sir are truly an idiot.

        Microsft's Server and Tools business is seeing double digit growth and that isn't because they sell bad software as you indicate.

        As for software being free, this attitude of entitlement is also stunning! So people should earn CS degrees spending tens of thousands of dollars so that they can write you free programs. As I said, you sir are an idiot!

        Pat
        omdguy
        • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

          @omdguy They do not sell bad software but Linux Geek is not an idiot. I little prefer Larry E. over the others. The idea of open source goes little beyond than just free software. It is very simple, there is company called Microsoft when you come the client PC where you have a certain amount someone is going to spend and this amount goes to MS. So free Software is not a matter of people who write it only. A personal computer without free Software is not enough. Btw: You can make money on SAP but not really on MS. This is the low cost league - they have failed to setup high quality services ... they have nothing to offer beyond some vendor locked in bytes.

          The idea of using open source means for the company users - people get payed for their intellectual work and this is what the bf MS followers do not want to hear. Wonder why! You sirs...

          Sorry for my bad English I speak Pascal.
          michaelthuma2
    • HP's purchase of Palm is looking pretty good

      WebOS may yet come out on top. HP may have pulled the power move by scooping up Palm and WebOS....
      chipbeef
      • Oh please! NO one wants a webos slate or phone or anything else

        if hp wants to use it as an embedded os in their printers fine, good for them, but what a waste of money.
        Johnny Vegas
        • No one? Remind me again what your prediction of the iPads

          @Johnny Vegas
          success was?

          Pagan jim
          James Quinn
    • Gee.

      Too bad nasty old money has to get involved in the pure, selfless open-source movement. Maybe Google should hire pure, selfless open-source lawyers to work the problem, huh?
      Userama
      • *Sniff sniff*

        @Userama

        I smell a strawman...
        Mercutio_Viz
    • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

      With Linux being the answer to proprietary Unix, and WINE being the answer to Windows, perhaps Java needs its counterpart in that area.
      Wodenhelm
      • RE: Memo from Oracle: let's sue our way to world domination

        @Wodenhelm

        Interesting. I'd like to see that if it can be done w/o tap dancing in the patent minefield.

        -MC
        Mercutio_Viz