Former Sun CEOs clash

Oracle vs Google – Sun CEOs offer different stances on Java API openness

Chris Mayer
Schwartz-McNealy

An action packed day in California as Google and Oracle call a former Sun CEO apiece to bolster their case. Both also use dirty tactics to sully the other – quelle surprise.

Day 9 may just have provided one of the most intriguing days so
far in the embittered court case between Oracle and Google over the
Android platform, with two former Sun Microsystems CEOs called to
the stand. And interestingly, they both offered alternate views on
the openness of Java APIs

First up was Jonathan Schwartz, former CEO of Sun Microsystems
from 2006 to 2010, testifying on Google’s behalf and arguably his
answers gave more weight to Google’s case than those any previous
witness.

Schwartz defiantly confirmed to Google counsel, Robert Van Nest
that whilst he was at Sun, they fostered a culture of openess
towards Java APIs and encouraged others to use them. Sun was
seeking wider distribution and adoption and this was the best way
of attaining this. Forging partnerships with Silicon Valley giants,
companies like Oracle, SAP, Sybase was in Schwartz’s words, a
way to give them something that was ‘bigger than the monopoly
itself’.

“You had to if you wanted to see that language broadly
accepted,” Schwartz explained. “Those APIs enabled people to write
full, complete applications that leverage all the technology
underlying the platform.”

Coming onto the real meat of the trial, the freeness of the 37
Java APIs to Android engineers, Schwartz was adamant that Sun had
never sold the APIs separately from the Java language, nor were
they solely propretiary to Sun.

When questioned about the negotiations with Google, Schwartz
explained that Sun was looking primarily for two things – firstly
revenue ‘so they could call it a ‘Java phone,’ and a wider
compatibility and support for the Java community. But Schwartz said
that ‘like almost all companies, Google wants to control their
destiny’ and it wasn’t possible to strike a deal.

Later, during cross-examination Oracle counsel, Michael Jacobs
questioned Schwartz on Google’s use of the 37 Java APIs that are at
the centre of this trial and their relation to Apache Harmony.
Schwartz said that the Apache Foundation is within their rights to
use the APIs as long as they don’t call it Java.

He said:

The Apache Foundation is totally free to ship their code into
the market place.

The only thing they can’t do is call their product Java. We
weren’t going to give them a hall pass.

Oracle, perhaps realising they were fighting a losing battle
with Schwartz, resorted to sullying his testimony by referring to
his exit at Sun repeatedly. Jacobs and Schwartz engaged in a heated
discussion over the Rubin emails. Schwartz inferred that Rubin was
making a big deal over nothing within those emails, but Jacobs
pushed further with the point. Eventually Schwartz said ‘I’m there
to define our business strategy — not to write our contracts.’

Later on, Oracle broke protocol slightly by calling up another
former Sun CEO, Scott McNealy in the midst of Google presenting its
case. Given what McNealy had to say, you can see why they wanted to
get him in sharpish, before the copyright portion of the trial was
over. 

McNealy’s view directly opposed that of Schwartz, confirming to
Oracle’s attorney David Boies that Java was “extremely
valuable” to Sun and that it involved “lots of intellectual
property.”

Upon further probing, McNealy discounted Schwartz’s statement
hours earlier that Sun’s policy to implement an incompatible
version of Java (although not called Java) was a ‘strategy that we
pursued nor allowed in the marketplace.’ He even went further to
say it would have a ‘negative’ effect on Sun, and they always
wanted to keep it compatible. McNealy said it was indeed Sun’s
practice to let other companies use Java, but only with a
commercial licence to keep compatibility. 

Google didn’t shy away from questionable cross-examination
either with Van Nest asking if McNealy was a personal friend of
Larry Ellison, perhaps trying to paint the witness as an Oracle
card-carrier. McNealy taken aback confirmed this was true. Van Nest
asked if Ellison was a ‘national economic hero’ as well. Why
this is relevant to the case, we don’t know. McNealy’s response
drew court laughter at least saying ‘Anyone who pays that many
taxes is a national economic hero.’

With the former Sun head honchos at loggerheads, it will now
fall to the jury to decide what Sun’s intentions were with Android.
It also can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that as we come
closer to copyright crunch-time with closing statements and a
verdict expected, the line of questioning and courtroom tactics has
been noticeably more severe.

The copyright case is almost nearing its conclusion.

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