What Does the Java Lawsuit Mean for Microsoft?

Oracle Vs. Google

Jessica Thornsby

Although Microsoft may seem on the edge of the current Java patent wars, it could potentially have everything to gain in the fallout.

With the current focus firmly on Google, Java, Oracle and Sun,
there’s one major player who has yet to be embroiled in this patent
war: Microsoft. But, although Microsoft may seem to be on the edge
of recent developments, the Oracle/Google situation could have huge
ramifications for Microsoft and .NET.

In the wake of growing opposition to Oracle, Bjørn Borud has a
radical proposal: for the Java community to break free
of Oracle, and collaborate with other major players in the IT
industry to create a completely re-invented Java community. This
would mean VMs, libraries and toolchains untouched by Sun-derived
code and, crucially, a wad of patents that would discourage Oracle
from going after this new Java consortium. Although it is obvious
why Borud names Google and IBM as major players who might be
interested in developing a new consortium, he also nominates
Microsoft as a potential helping-hand.

The reason Borud gives for Microsoft potentially helping the
Java community free itself from Oracle, are personal. After Sun
sued Microsoft in 1997 over alleged Java patent infringements, he
theories that Microsoft “is hungry for a re-match” and “would
probably be only too happy to beat Ellison over the head with a big
patent portfolio.” While it’s debatable whether Microsoft would
lend the Java community a helping hand as part of a long-held
vendetta against Oracle/Sun (after all, . NET directly competes
with Java) there’s no denying that Microsoft have much to benefit
from disillusionment amongst the Java community. If Microsoft took
measures to make .NET more open, and improve their relationships
with the open source and developer community, the .NET world could
see a slew of new developers.

Oracle’s move could also be lucrative for Windows Phone, which
directly competes with Android. Up until now, Android’s ascent
seemed unstoppable.
published by ChangeWave in April, 2010, stated that 30%
of those planning to buy a smartphone in the next 90-day period
would prefer their new phone to run on Android. Anything that could
slow down Android adoption, gives Windows Phone a much-needed
opportunity to make up some lost ground.

Just as the lawsuit has the potential to unsettle Java
developers, so it could sap enthusiasm in the Android community.
With a question mark hanging over the future of the Android OS,
it’s entirely feasible that shaken developers might switch to a new
operating system, or at least begin hedging their bets by exploring
different avenues of development, no longer giving Android 100%.
And, just as developers might put the brakes on Android-related
projects, phone companies could become more hesitant to risk using
the Android OS in new devices. All of which is good news for
Windows Phone.

But, what if Microsoft and Android are about to get a whole lot
closer? Miguel de Icaza speculates that Google could migrate Android from Java to the ECMA/ISO CIL and C#,
as Microsoft promise that C#, the core class libraries and the VM
only require you have a full implementation. The .NET Micro Edition
is also licensed under the liberal Microsoft Public License and the
ECMA/ISO VM specification allows for different profiles, which is
potentially very mobile-friendly.

With the future of Android cast into doubt, the Java community
unsettled and the new steward of Java rapidly becoming open
source’s latest villain, Microsoft are clearly in the best position
to take advantage of the situation.

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