Oracle tries to rebound with help from Sun co-founder

Oracle tries to use the testimony of Sun's co-founder to essentially null everything said by former CEO Jonathan Schwartz on Thursday morning.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Following former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz's eager but sometimes tension-filled appearance on the stand on Thursday morning, Sun co-founder Scott McNealy appeared for testimony at the U.S. District Court.

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McNealy was actually called to the stand by Oracle, even though Google is still in the middle of presenting its case. Google counsel Robert Van Nest stressed to Judge William Alsup that he wanted the jury to know that Google was accommodating Oracle with the timing of this testimony.

It wasn't hard to see why Oracle wanted McNealy in the courtroom before closing statements in the copyright portion of the 8-week trial. McNealy affirmed to Oracle counsel David Boies that Java was "extremely valuable" to Sun and that it involved "lots of intellectual property."

Going over the restrictions that Sun had in place through licensing, McNealy explained that the "most important one, with respect to Java, is to maintain compatibility because that was one of the most important value propositions that we offered."

In an effort to null the testimony the jury heard from Schwartz less than 30 minutes prior, Boies asked if it was ever Sun's policy to allow any company to implement an incompatible version of Java so long as they didn't call it Java.

"I don't recall that was ever a strategy that we pursued nor allowed in the marketplace," replied McNealy.

When asked if he saw Schwartz's November 2007 blog post (now a notable piece of evidence bounced around by both sides to their own -- but different -- advantages in this case) praising Google's announcement of Android, McNealy looked down but half laughed.

"If you don't tell him, no. I didn't read it," McNealy said with a slight grin, adding he only read occasional entries.

Nevertheless, he asserted that it was company policy that those kinds of blogs were not corporate, but rather personal.

Despite an objection from Van Nest, Boies asked about if allowing an incompatible version of Java to exist on the market would adversely affect Sun's economics. After a long explanation, McNealy finally said it would have a "negative" effect.

"It was a very clear corporate strategy for the Java platform to stay compatible," McNealy said.

Up until Thursday, the technology -- especially the Java APIs -- has been front and center in this case. Possibly seeing the road to closing statements getting shorter, both sides of the courtroom have become more severe -- and personal -- in their lines of questioning and tactics.

Earlier in the day, Schwartz got into a rather heated, back-and-forth conversation with Oracle counsel Michael Jacobs, which eventually devolved to a discussion about if Schwartz had been fired from Sun or he resigned.

Upon cross-examination, Van Nest took an approach that tried to convey McNealy as an Oracle insider, possibly calling his testimony for Oracle into question.

Van Nest commenced by asking if McNealy is a "close personal friend" of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Looking surprised by the question as his eyes shifted a bit, McNealy affirmed this to be true.

Furthermore, Van Nest asked if McNealy had ever referred to Ellison as a "national economic hero."

"That's correct. Anyone who pays that many taxes is a national economic hero," McNealy affirmed to some laughter in the courtroom.

Van Nest also brought up the fact that McNealy had once said in public that the Norman Mineta International Airport in San Jose should be renamed after Ellison, to which McNealy quipped that "airports should be named after taxpayers, not politicians."

Van Nest also asked McNealy how much he cashed out after Oracle acquired Sun in 2010. McNealy couldn't provide an exact figure, but estimated that it was approximately $150 million to $200 million in stock.


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