Oracle - Mature Enough to Lead Java?

Java Under Oracle

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

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 worrying.

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 innovation.

Sebastian Meyen

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