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On a New Road

Comments around Oracle v GoogleTuesday May 1, 2012
There's been a lot of chatter about the Oracle v Google case, sometimes putting words into my mouth. I can't go into much detail because it is an ongoing court case where I'm likely to be a witness. But there are a few points I feel I should restate that have been said before:
  • My "Google totally slimed Sun" comment was a personal moral opinion. Not my guess at a legal result, or a legal opinion at all - I am not a lawyer and would never pretend to be.
  • I certainly think that the patent system is broken, but the system is what it is. The original basic theory makes sense to me, but what it's evolved into doesn't. At Sun we had a near death experience after losing a case with IBM, after that we realized we had to play the game, no matter how bogus.
  • The wide implications of Oracle winning the copyright case are pretty disturbing. But that's a practical opinion. How it will go in the legal system is anyone's guess. It extends far beyond Oracle: developers everywhere use APIs defined by many other entities. I hate to think of what an emerging "copyright troll" industry might be.
  • A lot of what I've read gets really hyperbolic on the possibilities of the industrial meltdown that Oracle could conceivably cause. Despite my well-known opinions on Oracle, they wouldn't do any of the nightmare scenarios that some have imagined: such a meltdown would not be in their own self interest. They have actually been unexpectedly good stewards of Java (although less so of Solaris).
  • The issue has always been interoperability. It's one of the major aspects that has made the Java community thrive. The freedom of developers to expect their programs to work has always been at tension with the freedom of platform providers to do whatever they please. At Sun, we always sided with developers.
  • The Java patents were used by Sun as a tool to enforce interoperability: follow the spec, you can use them for free. A good result for developers derived from a bogus patent system.
Comments:

Your case would be more convincing if J2ME wasn't such a horror-show. I think Sun would have tried to leverage any licensing deal with Google with "interoperability" with J2ME cruft. The fact is, the interoperability that matters for a mobile OS that Google was trying to build, is interoperability across OS installations on potentially diverse hardware. It was not in trying to create an abstract platform that's independent of OS; that was one of Java's goals, not one of Android's goals, and getting involved with Sun on that level would have virtually guaranteed that Android would have failed. That is, I see much of this as a case of crying over the existence of a pie, of which Sun did not get a piece. But the conditions required for Sun getting a piece of the pie would have resulted in no pie at all.

Posted by Barry Kelly on May 01, 2012 at 03:34 PM PDT #

Java patents were used by Sun as a tool to enforce interoperability: aollow the spec, you can use them for free..... Nay. You need to pass the TCK test. Remember Apache Harmony and the infamous field of use cause?

Posted by Daniel Cheng on May 01, 2012 at 10:47 PM PDT #

The central basic question is: does Android hurt Java? Honestly, I don't think so. JavaME was already dying when Android appeared, and it was well deserved!

Posted by Traroth on May 02, 2012 at 03:10 AM PDT #

@Barry Kelly They sued Microsoft to protect interoperability (the J++ thing). Sun didn't sue Google over Android (Oracle did). @Traroth Android didn't hurt Java, it hurt Sun. Google gave Java a big leap forward, by trampling on Sun's head. And as much I like the existence of Android, Google did screwed Sun, which couldn't do anything about it (at least without breaking its own principles).

Posted by Tetsuo on May 02, 2012 at 05:15 AM PDT #

I was so pumped with Scott and Eric appeared on stage together - When Scott handed a copy of staroffice to Eric. Sun paved the way for Android as it is and what would have been a few 100 million in fees to Sun, drive java forward, maybe some forked version that was 100% java - call it java-an. Sun might have survived and google could have easily expanded it's eco system to all of java without a seam. The rest of Sun software would have survived and we could be talking about mysql iServers, idm iServers and soa iServers and taking on Larry. In stead, Eric screws Scott and now Larry is screwing Eric. Hmmm....

Posted by Jim on May 02, 2012 at 07:04 AM PDT #

>A lot of what I've read gets really hyperbolic on the possibilities of the industrial meltdown that Oracle could conceivably cause. Despite my well-known opinions on Oracle, they wouldn't do any of the nightmare scenarios that some have imagined: such a meltdown would not be in their own self interest. *This* is just wrong. Adults should know better than to rely on "They wouldn't". If "they wouldn't", then there's no reason for them not to put that fact into writing and make it explicit. A corporation's idea of its own self interest can change over time, and so today's "they wouldn't" becomes tomorrow's "they will".

Posted by pjz on May 02, 2012 at 07:09 AM PDT #

You really, really should not be making *any* comments while this is under litigation. I'm sure the temptation is strong, and us followers recognize your place as unique. But this is about serious money, which means the lawyers on both sides couldn't care less about any roadkill.

Posted by PeterRRRRR on May 02, 2012 at 08:01 AM PDT #

"They have actually been unexpectedly good stewards of Java" On that point - after 7u4 comes out with all the big announcements, I tried to migrate from JavaSE 6. And guess what happened - all my .jar file associations are gone. I can no long double-click to run any JARs on Windows.

Posted by alex on May 02, 2012 at 10:29 AM PDT #

I hope this litigation doesnt destory java. The company that most benefit out of this is MS not oracle or google.

Posted by Jim on May 02, 2012 at 02:02 PM PDT #

@alex Please see the update on https://blogs.oracle.com/henrik/entry/moving_to_java_7_as

Posted by GES on May 02, 2012 at 09:35 PM PDT #

I love you man for saying it like it is! Yes, Google is doing evil by forking Java, and yes, copyright protection for APIs would not be good. I couldn't be in more perfect agreement with you, and I hope the copyright infringement is determined on the legitimate and narrower basis of copying actual code and not the API.

Posted by java-whore on May 05, 2012 at 08:13 PM PDT #

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