Why Oracle vs Google won't harm Android

Why Oracle vs Google won't harm Android
Open source and patents can co-exist

So Google's been sued by Oracle for (mis) using Java in its popular Android operating system.

Big deal. If you've been following software patent cases, this isn't news. It's just business as usual.

Despite the weekend following Oracle's post-LinuxCon "announcement", there have been lots of discussions on the technical viability of the lawsuit. Laymen have claimed "Oracle is just dumb", while Java experts have discredited and dismissed the claims as technically baseless.

And before you say it, let me tell you, open source and patents can co-exist. A software license, like the GPL, covers the source code, while a patent can cover its implementation. It's messy as it is, and it gets messier when implemented.

Which is why, at LinuxCon, Eben Moglen, the founder of the Software Freedom Law Centre, asked the free software community to use the patent system to solve its patent problems.

Oracle accuses Google of developing Android using portions of Sun's open-source and patented Java. On top of that it developed its own Java Virtual Machine. Together these two developments are the basis of the patent violation lawsuit.

See what you want

Technicalities aside, people only see evidence of what they believe to be true. Which is why the lawsuit has got the "told you so" crowd so excited. Headlines are already screaming the death of OpenSolaris. "OMG! it's OpenOffice next". Can we please stop the exaggeration?

It's convenient to ignore the fact that Oracle supports btrfs, which as per Theodore Ts'o is the "way forward" for the Linux kernel. It's also used as the default filesystem by the Intel and Nokia joint effort, Meego.

So what will be the outcome of the case? Baseless or not, Google hasn't really (yet) clarified its stance and has only released a rather meek statement, expressing its disappointment at Oracle for attacking the open source Java community.

There's also talk of this lawsuit killing Android. That's just plain rubbish. If anything, Oracle wants Android to flourish. It would just heart it more if Android uses Java under Sun's commercial license. And that's what this lawsuit is about. License fees.

Leave the technical details for the engineers of the companies to fight over, in court. That is if this case ever escalates to that level.

It's important to remember that Oracle is the third largest software company in the world. You don't ascend to that podium position, without stepping on a few toes.

Mayank Sharma

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.