Java – A Speed Bump for Android?

Right as Android is taking one of the dominant roles in the smartphone market, Oracle (which acquired Java owner Sun recently for over $5 billion) is suing Google over the use of Java code in its Android mobile OS. Android has recently edged past the iPhone in market-share, and it has the 3rd largest share in the smartphone market. Now that Android’s success is clear, Oracle has claimed that Android uses parts of its patented Java code without permission. Oracle is arguing that Java is a competitor mobile OS to Android, and that Google is using parts of it unlicensed. This move could be revealing one of the ways Oracle likely plans to change the oversight of Java now that they own it – Sun never challenged Google about the use of code. Oracle may start a strategy of seeking out and attempting make money off other companies using unlicensed Java code. Many systems use parts of Java in their code due to the fact that Sun open-sourced much of the Java code in 2006 (to spur development related to the OS).  One of the interesting aspects of this lawsuit is that Google’s CEO, Eric Schmidt, was previously the Chief Technology Officer at Sun. Oracle is arguing that Schmidt’s close knowledge about Java led to the wrongdoing. However, Google claims that they wrote the Android system from scratch. Further, it is legal to use many pieces of Java code in new system creation, since its code has been openly released. However, even if Google may feel like they have an advantage in the lawsuit, another part of the lawsuit may cause Google to retract their position and settle our of court. Oracle is trying to get an order that stops sale and use of Android-based devices. Android is increasingly important to Google, and they likely can’t let the growth of Android be disrupted – Google estimates that this part of their business could be worth $10 billion in the near future.

If a settlement happens, it will be large, however the biggest impact from the lawsuit may be on the future use of Java. The lawsuit will likely cause a further decline in Java use. Oracle is making a statement that you must go through them if you use Java, and so many developers will probably move to other open code bases.