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12/30/2015
01:06 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary
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Google Goes With OpenJDK For Android

Is Google's move to an open source version of Oracle's Java Development Kit for upcoming Android OS development a way for the company to hedge its bets as its legal battle with Oracle continues to wind through the courts?

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Tech Fail Forecast: Bursting The Next Bubble
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Google is changing the Java APIs in Android from current proprietary ones to the OpenJDK set. The OpenJDK APIs are the open source version of Oracle's Java Development Kit (JDK).

News of this was first broken by an Android commit that looked "mysterious," according to a thread on Ycombinator. The commit documents that it was first written in February 2015, and committed in November.

In an article this week in VentureBeat, Google confirmed its next Android platform won't implement Oracle's proprietary Java APIs.

[Learn more about Google's ongoing court battle with Oracle. Read Google's Android Appeal Rejected By Supreme Court.]

"As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community," a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. "In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android's Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future."

A discussion thread on Ycombinator's HackerNews was rife with speculation that Google's move toward OpenJDK is an attempt to defuse an ongoing legal battle with Oracle. After acquiring Sun Microsystems (the true father of Java) in 2010, Oracle sued Google for patent and copyright infringement over Google's use of Java in Android.

(Image: juniorbeep/iStockphoto)

(Image: juniorbeep/iStockphoto)

The ensuing legal battle continues to this day, with a series of appeals winding their way through the US courts. The latest arguments mainly center upon whether Google's use of Oracle's Java APIs in Android constitutes fair use under US copyright law.

In 2014, Google petitioned the US Supreme Court to consider an appeal in the case, but that request was declined by the court in June 2015. The case has been punted back to the lower courts to decide whether fair use applies in this case.

Meanwhile, we're left to wonder this move is a way for Google to hedge its bets against any potential damages that could result from an unfavorable court ruling. Basing future versions of Android on OpenJDK, rather than Oracle's proprietary JDK, is seen by casual observers as a way for Google to future-proof its Android operating system.

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Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
1/6/2016 | 9:46:00 AM
Re: Understandable
@jries

That makes sense, but it still makes me wnder just what MSFT thinks it has in Android.

If it is enabling (Android wouldn't work without it) they could control the use of the system. They haven't done that.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/4/2016 | 2:41:34 PM
Re: Understandable
No.  But for trolls, the focus is on entrapment and strategic use of the legal system to extract maximum profit.  Trolls *want* their patents violated so they can extract licensing fees after the fact.  Note that to this day, MS refuses to publicly disclose exactly which patents are at issue in Android, which makes sense only if it wants to turn code it neither developed nor paid for into a cash cow.  If that is true, the very last thing MS wants is for Google to either contest the patent claims or eliminate the allegedly infringing code.

 If MS were really interested in deterring infringement of its patents, this would not be the way to go about it.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/3/2016 | 8:49:10 PM
Re: Understandable
Company's also license their patents to others.  Take ARM for instance.  By your book, anyone who does that is a troll?
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
1/3/2016 | 4:01:52 PM
Re: Understandable
The purpose of suing would be to stop the infringement.  Suing for profit is properly referred to as "trolling" and the negative connotations of the term are very much deserved.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
1/2/2016 | 9:49:58 AM
Re: Understandable
If Oracle prevails on this one the entire software field will suffer.
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
1/2/2016 | 1:45:59 AM
Re: Understandable
The debating about licensing is always endless - as long as it can be. So choosing OpenJDK would a wise choice for Google and Oracle.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2016 | 11:30:33 PM
Re: Understandable
@rradina, I would say it an interesting approach by Microsoft... hope Joe will put his two cents in as I would love to hear his point of view... 
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
1/1/2016 | 5:15:22 PM
Re: Understandable
Yes, just so. Google did there own implementation of Java. Now the one used will be nonproprietary.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2016 | 4:35:33 PM
Re: Understandable
Android was already open source.  My understanding of this case is Google did not use any Oracle (Sun) API implementation.  They simply provided their own implementation of the Java run-time (i.e. Dalvik).  Google switching to the OpenJDK API shouldn't affect the quality or security of their product.  It's just a move to isolate future versions of Android and the diagreement they have with Oracle.
rradina
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rradina,
User Rank: Ninja
1/1/2016 | 4:30:45 PM
Re: Understandable
MS probably didn't sue Google because if they won, what price would they put on the infringement?  Instead, they decided to litigate the handset makers.  From a licensing perspective, that makes sense because handset makers know the quantity and revenue from those sales.  That makes it easy for MS to ask a couple bucks per device.  The handset maker agrees rather than lose a suit and possibly owe the entire profit they made on the device.
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