Google Goes With OpenJDK For Android - InformationWeek

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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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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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jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 10:24:25 AM
Understandable
While I would like to see the precedent set that programming languages and APIs are not ownable, Google is in the business of making money, and the current litigation with Oracle has to be a financial drain.  To that extent, OpenJDK strikes me as a reasonable compromise.

 
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
12/31/2015 | 10:30:35 AM
Re: Understandable
Yeah, it does.

And it gives them the appearance of being on the side of the developers, too.

Not to mention sticking it to Oracle,
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 12:39:01 PM
Re: Understandable
@jries921: I think it makes sense. From what I recall, Google has several patented items in the Android OS which it pays for on a per user basis even though Android itself is open-source. The file system in the Android uses Microsoft's file system that was used way back in Win 95/98 and Google had to pay Microsoft for it for every user.
jries921
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jries921,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 2:47:22 PM
Re: Understandable
Given the press MS has given to patent license agreements with Android OEMs, I would have to think that it would have trumpeted any such agreement with Google.  Since it has not, I have to believe that no such agreement has been made.  Given the usual claim by MS-boosters that MS is merely trying to "protect its intellectual property", it is rather curious that MS has never even threatened to sue Google over the supposed patent infringement; it leads me to suspect a lack of confidence in its claims as Google has deeper pockets and a bigger commitment to Android than do any of the OEMs; and is therefore much more likely to fight a lawsuit.

It has been surmised for some time that MS' VFAT patent is the reason wny many Android devices (such as my three year old Samsung Galaxy Nexus 2) do not have SD card slots, but that has never been publicly acknowledged.  It curious, though, that MS has never even threatened to sue Linux distributors or the Linux kernel developers over the same issue (support for VFAT is in the Linux kernel distributed with Android, not in Android per se).
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 10:42:33 PM
Re: Understandable
Wow, I thought the case ended and I missed it. This is probably a good move for Google in an effort to 'future proof' the OS. 
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 11:25:43 PM
Re: Understandable
I think this is yet another good initiative by Google. Also some good news for developers.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 11:28:59 PM
Re: Understandable
I am wondering if this will have an adverse impact on the security. If security is compromised I don't think users will like it. 
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
12/31/2015 | 11:30:44 PM
Re: Understandable
@tzubair – I am wondering why they didn't use a file system of some other open source OS (Linux)
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
1/1/2016 | 6:50:46 AM
Re: Understandable
The case went back to a lower court after the Supes ducked it. Huge implications for the entire computer field in it. It ain't over until it's over. Yes Google is making sure Android will go on no matter what.
larryloeb
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larryloeb,
User Rank: Author
1/1/2016 | 6:52:16 AM
Re: Understandable
@shakeeb Open sourcing might actually make security better, I think.
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