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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 be a way for the company to hedge its bets as its legal battle with Oracle continues to wind through the courts?

Larry Loeb

December 30, 2015

2 Min Read
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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.

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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About the Author(s)

Larry Loeb

Blogger, Informationweek

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 protocol. His latest book has the commercially obligatory title of Hack Proofing XML. He's been online since uucp "bang" addressing (where the world existed relative to !decvax), serving as editor of the Macintosh Exchange on BIX and the VARBusiness Exchange. His first Mac had 128 KB of memory, which was a big step up from his first 1130, which had 4 KB, as did his first 1401. You can e-mail him at [email protected].

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