Android chief: We didn't think we needed a license from Sun

After three days on the stand, Google's head of Android Andy Rubin completes his testimony in the copyright portion of the Oracle-Google trial.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Android chief Andy Rubin wrapped up his testimony on Wednesday morning in the copyright portion of the Oracle-Google trial at the U.S. District Court.

See also: Trial: Android chief on why Java was picked for Android Google's Rubin spars with Oracle over definition of fragmentation Closing statements in Oracle-Google trial expected on Monday

Google counsel Robert Van Nest picked up from where he left off on Tuesday afternoon, asking Rubin what happened after initial negotiations with Sun Microsystems ended in 2006. Rubin said that the Android team went forward to build the mobile operating system on its own.

"We wrote code ourselves, obviously," said Rubin, "In developing Android, we assembled it from various pieces."

Although it is constantly evolving, Rubin commented that there are 15 million lines of source code and "many thousands" of independent files that make up Android.

Also dabbling with the the Linux system among other technologies, Rubin added that Google partnered with companies on open handset lines, paying them for contributions back into Android.

One example of a contribution that Google paid for is the media framework from Packet Video, which is used on Android for decoding video files.

Rubin said that it took roughly three years from inception to completion of Android 1.0 in 2008. He also explained that what was released in 2007 -- an Android SDK -- wasn't enough for a smartphone, but rather just enough for third-party developers to write their own apps for Android.

"The SDK allowed the programmer to see the APIs that were in existence on that early date," Rubin said, noting it would have included some of the Java APIs in question in this case at that time.

Rubin affirmed that anyone could have seen this as early as October 2007, saying, "All they needed to do was go to our website and click the download button."

However, during cross-examination, Oracle counsel David Boies asked Rubin whether or not there was any record of anyone at Sun praising Google's use of Java for Android after the SDK was released. (Boies pointed out that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz's blog post praising Google was after the announcement of Android but before the SDK was released.)

Rubin said there were a few -- including conversations with Sun CTO Vineet Gupta -- but there isn't any written record confirming these comments.

When asked if Android application developers are writing primarily in the Java language, Rubin noted that in order to write an app for Android, it has to include Java. One reason behind that was to have support for legacy applications from third-party partners, such as games from Electronic Arts.

The open source project Apache Harmony, in particular, has repeatedly been brought up in this trial, serving as a comparative example for Google of using Java APIs on an open source platform.

"It's open source. That's what's magical about this," Rubin remarked.

Rubin acknowledged that there were other companies trying to build upon the Apache Harmony project, but IBM was the only example that Rubin could confirm.

"The whole purpose of that project was to implement a clean-room version of the Java APIs," Rubin said, adding that there were many other (albeit "uncoordinated") efforts also trying to do this.

Rubin also explained, "The Apache Software Foundation also has their own version of an open source license. It's a small legal document that basically describes your rights as a customer of this open source project."

Taking all of this together, Van Nest asked Rubin if he thought at the time that Google would need a license to use the Java APIs. Rubin replied, "We did not believe that we needed a license from Sun."

Rubin also said that the first time he heard of any violation in regards to Android and its use of Java APIs was at the beginning of this lawsuit.

"One of the benefits of open source is providing our work openly and freely is that other people can expect it," Rubin said, asserting that there's nothing "hidden" in the Android source code.

Yet also during cross-examination, Boies asked Rubin if he was aware whether or not that Sun had prohibited Java SE implementation on anything but a desktop or server. Rubin replied that he was aware of this.

Boies and Rubin then sparred over whether or not he was not aware of an email exchange between Google software engineer Bob Lee and executive chairman Eric Schmidt that explained that these restrictions extended to prevent Apache Harmony from independently implementing Java SE.

Boies was steadfast that Rubin knew, while Rubin denied any knowledge about this.

Boies then questioned Rubin if he knew of any other company besides Google using Apache Harmony commercially without a license from Sun. Rubin replied the Apache Software Foundation, but Boies said that is a non-profit organization. Rubin replied that he wasn't sure about that.


Editorial standards