Former Sun CEO: We would have paid Google for Java phone

In what could be a major blow to Oracle's case against Google, former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz defends openness of Java language and APIs at court.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- In what might be one of the most anticipated appearances of the Oracle-Google trial thus far, former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz testified on behalf of Google at the U.S. District Court on Thursday morning.

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Schwartz served as chief executive officer of Sun from 2006 until 2010. Schwartz is now the CEO of San Francisco-based startup CareZone.

Schwartz described eagerly that when Java was initially developed in the mid-1990s, it came about during a time when there was one company "dominating" computing: Microsoft.

Thus, with the development of web servers and web languages, these newer technologies offered opportunities "to write all kinds of magical things." Schwartz added that "what was important for Sun at the time" was to open up new markets to basically "get away from Microsoft."

Furthermore, to promote Java, Schwartz commented that it was "critically important that we not simply market to businesses, but also the seeds of all future businesses," which he defined as universities and high schools around the world.

Schwartz also confirmed to Google counsel Robert Van Nest that Sun promoted the open use of Java APIs as well.

"You had to if you wanted to see that language broadly accepted," Schwartz explained. "Those APIs enabled people to write full, complete applications that leverage all the technology underlying the platform."

He added that the distribution of those APIs across the world enabled the adoption levels that Sun was seeking.

To further boost those adoption levels, Sun had to find a way to be bigger than Microsoft, and Schwartz said that was made possible with the open Java community. Partners included Oracle, SAP, Sybase, and many other Silicon Valley giants.

"It would give us something to pull together that was bigger than the monopoly itself," Schwartz remarked.

Schwartz described that the community talked about open APIs and competing implementation. He affirmed that basically everyone would have the same set of APIs, but each company would create its own products, the virtual machines specifically, to go off and perform.

Getting into what is at the heart of Google's case -- that the 37 Java APIs in question were free for its engineers to use on Android -- Van Nest asked Schwartz if the Java APIs ever sold or licenses separately from the language." Schwartz replied instantly, "No, of course not."

Van Nest also asked Schwartz if the Java APIs were considered proprietary to Sun, to which Schwartz also replied no, adding that "we would have worked very hard to say that wasn't true."

When Sun started partnership negotiations with Google as far back as 2005, Schwartz commented that the goal here was to create an even bigger market for Sun.

He also explained that Sun was looking for two things. First, Schwartz said that the "one that mattered" was revenue.

"We wanted a big license and a big fee so they could call it a 'Java phone,'" Schwartz explained."

The second benefit would be compatibility and wider support for the Java community because Java developers could then develop their apps for anyone from Nokia to Ericsson to potentially Google.

Nevertheless, Schwartz admitted that "like almost all companies, Google wants to control their destiny." He acknowledged when you take a license, you can't control your own destiny, and that can slow things down.

"You're now married, and you have to find out a way to get along," Schwartz said.

While Sun wanted to "find ways to make Google comfortable," Schwartz acknowledged that "they felt they could better execute on their own and didn't need what we had to offer."

However, even though Schwartz said that Sun wanted to get revenue from Google if a partnership could be hammered out, Schwartz said that the deal did not fall apart for money.

"We probably would have paid them to work with us on a Java phone," Schwartz admitted.

Ahead of the announcement of Android in 2007, Schwartz told Van Nest that Sun was aware of a few things about Android, including that Google would be using the Java languages and APIs.

"They were not subtle about it," Schwartz commented.

Thus in his November 2007 blog post, which has been bounced around as a piece of evidence repeatedly in this trial, Schwartz had congratulated Google on the production of Android.


Although Schwartz admitted that Sun wishes things happened differently, he said on the stand that this could have gone one of two ways: either Sun could have sued Google, or embrace it and get onto the value chain.

"We didn't like it, but we weren't going to stop it by complaining about it," Schwartz said.

But really, Schwartz and Sun might have had another enemy in mind.

"Imagine for a moment if Google selected Microsoft Windows," Schwartz said, explaining that was the only other option at the time besides an open source Java implementation.

Thus for Schwartz, the silver lining for him was that at least this way, Google could be a part of the community.

Image via Google


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