Oracle - Mature Enough to Lead Java?

Java Under Oracle


After months of silence, Oracle finally make an announcement on the future of Java: that they are suing Google over the Android OS……

Sebastian Meyen, Content Chief Officer of Software and
Support Media comments on the Oracle lawsuit against

When at the beginning of the year it was confirmed that the Sun
takeover by Oracle would go ahead, the community hoped that Oracle
would now reveal their Java strategy. After nine months of
stagnation caused by the various antitrust authorities, Oracle
would emerge from the legal disputes, and shed some light on the
future of Java.

But, it did not work that way. Up until now, Oracle has avoided
making a clear statement on how Java will progress under their
stewardship – and now, suddenly, comes the news that Oracle is
suing Google over the Android OS.

You return from summer vacation, rub your eyes and wonder: is
this really all Oracle has to say, after so many months of silence?
That they are suing Google over Android?

Certainly, the invention of Android was a venturous coup. Sun,
together with the major mobile operators, worked for over ten years
to make Java ME ready for the upcoming mobile revolution. Then, the
mobile revolution arrives and everyone is talking about the iPhone
and Android. Java ME has missed the chance to become a major player
in the smartphone world. Without a doubt, Sun viewed this
out-manoeuvring with some bitterness, but they never filed a
lawsuit against Google.

It was back in 1997, that Sun had to address the first violation
of Java’s good, open source manners. Microsoft introduced
proprietary classes in its Java Virtual Machine, only to be sued by
Sun and eventually forced to pay just under two million dollars,
coupled with the order to withdraw from the Java market. A few
years later, IBM’s Eclipse framework snubbed Java fundamentalists.
Instead of choosing AWT and Swing as UI library, Big Blue created
SWT, which accesses the native GUI libraries of the operating
system. It was a clear violation of the Java statutes, but the only
consequence was a year-long resentment on the part of Sun. And now,
we come to Android.

We all know that Oracle is a company which bases its decisions
on business considerations and is far less engineering-driven than
Sun. It is also assumed that ideological considerations play little
or no role in Oracle’s management. Does Ellison wish to pocket the
Android royalties, and replenish some of the funds lost through
dwindling Java ME licenses? Or is he flexing his muscles to spook
the competitors (cloud computing, data storage)?

For the Java community, the current situation is alarming.
Oracle has finally established that development of OpenSolaris has
been halted; we ask ourselves whether the OpenJDK project is facing
a similar fate; and now, legal action against the Android open
source project…. Oracle’s lack of transparency, and their
apparent disinterest in communicating with the community, is

Oracle’s systematic refusal to engage with the community is a
huge problem. Incidentally, in Java Magazine the impact of Oracle’s
reluctance to communicate has become noticeable: the highly
acclaimed column on OpenJDK by Dalibor Topic, which he wrote
exclusively for us, has been put on hold. Oracle has also refused
us the permission to publish video recordings of JAX sessions
performed by ex-Sun employees. We have conducted video interviews
with Oracle speakers, but have received no authorisation for them,
and so cannot make them available to you.

You don’t have to go as far as former Sun employee Tim Bray –
who now works for Google and is responsible for the Android
ecosystem – who expressed himself via Twitter in unusually pithy
words. Other former Java protagonists, such as James Gosling, have
acknowledged a sharp difference in how Sun would have handled the
current developments.

When two charismatic fighting cocks are at war in the IT
industry, blame is not easy to clarify. Google too seems committed
to the principle of openness only when it benefits Google. But,
from Oracle we expected a leader in the future development of Java.
In recent months, Oracle have not demonstrated the necessary
maturity for the job. JavaOne, which has been postponed until late
September, offers Oracle one last chance.

Let us hope that recent developments are only due to the
inexperience of Oracle and Larry Ellison, and that in September we
will be presented with a clear roadmap, based on openness and
cooperation, but also a clear statement on the topic of

Sebastian is Chief Content Officer at S&S Media. He has been actively involved with the IT industry for more than 10 years. As a journalist he is constantly in touch with thought leaders in software development and architecture. He is editor in chief of the German speaking Java Magazin and program chair of the JAX conferences since 2001. Prior to joining S&S Media, he studied philosophy and anthropology in Frankfurt, Germany.
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