Google's googly: Drops use of Oracle's Java APIs in Android N as lawsuit rages on

Google is replacing the use of Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Android with OpenJDK -- the open source version of Oracle's Java Development Kit.


As the epic legal battle between the tech titans over use of Oracle's Java in Google's Android operating system rages on, there has been a slight twist in the tale.

Google is replacing the use of Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Android with OpenJDK – the open source version of Oracle's Java Development Kit. According to a report by VentureBeat Google has confirmed that Android N will rely solely on OpenJDK, rather than Android's own earlier implementations of Java APIs. Speaking to VentureBeat, a Google spokesperson said that in their upcoming release of Android, they plan to move Android's Java language libraries to OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. "As an open source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open source community. 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," says Google.

Google also feels that developers will welcome the change because it simplifies the code on which they build apps and puts everyone on a common codebase. But, as VentureBeat observes, if this was the reason, the switch would have been made years ago. On being asked why this move was made only now, the company says that it wants to put more resources into OpenJDK so its team can have a bigger impact on new features and improvements, and that the release of Java 8 last year and introduction of new language features validates that. All said and done, there is still the on-going legal battle that simply cannot be ignored and this move has also sparked off rumours that there has been an out of court settlement.

To chart out a brief background of the legal tangle, here's how it started:

Java was developed by Sun Microsystems starting in 1991. Android, Inc was founded in 2003 to develop a mobile phone platform. Google purchased Android in 2005 and continued developing Android OS. Google released a beta of the Android platform on November 5, 2007 noting that it would use some of Java technologies – something that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz appreciated saying they had 'strapped another set of rockets to the community's momentum'. Google did negotiate with Sun about possible partnership and licensing deals for Java, but no agreement was reached.

Enter, Oracle. They purchased Sun in January 2010 and continued developing Java. Oracle, too, continued discussing a possible licensing deal, but an agreement again was not reached. Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement in August 2010. The case has been moving back and forth across various courts ever since.

Both the sides have interesting arguments. Oracle claims that effective copyright protection is the key to software development and seeks licensing fees for use of some parts of the Java language. Google argues that this 'obstructs an enormous amount of innovation, because software developers would not be able to build freely on each other's work'. Google had made the statement that they would continue to defend the interoperability that has fostered innovation and competition in the software industry.

This case has massive implications on how the software industry works, sparking debates about who owns what or if interoperability an excuse to plagiarise.

For the consumer, it could mean some changes in the cost and functionality of Android OS. All eyes on you, Android N.

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