Legal woes no impact on Android ecosystem yet

Analysts note that tussles with likes of Oracle will have no short-term impact on phone makers and developers, but one Singapore-based coder believes Google's Android roadmap will be disrupted.

Despite high-profile legal tussles associated with Android, the mobile OS' ecosystem and development are unlikely to be impacted in the near term, according to analysts. One Singapore-based developer, however, believes there will be disruption to Google's Android roadmap.

Earlier this month, Oracle filed a suit against Google claiming that Android and Android-based devices had infringed on copyrights and patents associated with Java. Oracle had inherited the Java-related intellectual property along with its acquisition of Sun Microsystems early this year.

In April, shortly after reaching a patent deal with HTC, Microsoft also claimed that Android was infringing on its patents. At that time, the software giant said it preferred to resolve intellectual property licensing issues without having to resort to lawsuits.

T.Y. Lau, senior analyst at Canalys, noted that legal suits are part and parcel of the industry and such tussles are typically drawn out over two to three years. In view of that, Android development is unlikely to be affected, she said in a phone interview, adding that milestones such as the release of Gingerbread "should be on time".

The platform's popularity will also persist, said Lau. According to her, Android has been "growing by leaps and bounds", and this expansion will continue through to the next year. This is in line with a surge in global smartphone shipments from 55 million in 2010 to 84 million in 2011, she added.

Tim Renowden, analyst for devices and platforms at Ovum, concurred. "Patent lawsuits are common in the telecoms and technology industries, and are usually resolved by the two parties coming to a licensing agreement. This process usually takes several years, so Android is unlikely to be affected in the next couple of years," he told ZDNet Asia.

In an e-mail, Google reiterated its stand that the lawsuit is "baseless", as well as affirmed its commitment to Android development. "We are committed to the Android platform and are excited about what's to come," said a spokesperson.

Android roadmap may face bumps
The Oracle-Google clash, according to London-based Renowden, is unlikely to deter anyone from developing software for the platform. Google, he noted, "has made a huge bet on Android and has deep enough pockets to come to a licensing agreement with Oracle if required to".

Canalys' Lau also proposed that there will be no letup in application development as "people are still quite optimistic" about Android's future.

Developers are, in any case, used to such clashes, she pointed out. "Nokia is in a legal suit with Apple as well, but that has not stopped Apple developers or Symbian developers [from developing on the respective platforms]."

Chua Zi Yong, founder of CodeAndroid, an interest group for Android developers in the region, noted the lack of "strong sentiments" about the Oracle-Google lawsuit among the developer community.

However, Chua, who is CEO of Stream Media, a Singapore startup offering mobile payment solutions, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail that he expects disruptions to the Android roadmap.

"Google's [current] plan will mostly be cancelled, unless Oracle cooperates and allows Android to continue to use and develop Dalvik," he said.

Every Android application contains an instance of the Dalvik virtual machine to execute files written in the Dalvik Executable (.dex) format, which is optimized for a minimal memory footprint. Dalvik was cited in Oracle's suit as part of the Android code that allegedly infringed on Java-related patents.


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