Legal dispute left its mark on Google

Google might be changing Android’s mother tongue. Is Swift the answer to Google’s legal problems?

Gabriela Motroc
Android holding a glowing earth globe image via Shutterstock

The news that Google may adopt Apple’s Swift programming language for Android circumnavigated the world and many people condemned the tech giant for running away from its ongoing legal dispute with Oracle. But can this work? Is Swift the answer to Google’s prayers?

Google’s dispute with Oracle began when the latter sued the tech giant for copyright six years ago, claiming that Google inappropriately used its Java APIs and integrated them into its Android mobile OS. Google almost won the original lawsuit in 2012, but the decision was reversed two years later in Oracle’s favor. Oracle recently announced its intent to ask for $8.8 billion in damages from Google, but nothing has been decided yet. If Google is prohibited from using those copyrighted APIs, it should have a plan B.

Is Swift the answer to Google’s legal problems?

According to the Tiobe index for April, Swift has become a rather popular programming language, but probably its greatest asset is its open source nature. The Next Web was first to reveal that Google may adopt Apple’s Swift programming language for Android and explained that discussions between a few renowned companies started around the time Swift was going open source. The publication noted that representatives from Uber, Google and Facebook “were at the meeting in London discussing the new language.”

Source told The Next Web that “Google was considering making Swift a ‘first class’ language for Android” while the other two companies wanted to better incorporate Swift in their operations and services. Even though Google will replace Java with Swift, the switch will not be immediate.

SEE ALSO: Apple announces Swift 2.0 and declares it open source

Could this work?

The publication also noted that Google would have to prepare its whole standard library and “support the language in APIs and SDKs.” Suffice to say that going from Java to Swift cannot happen overnight, especially since Android APIs in C++, for example, would have to be rewritten. However, there are two reasons why Swift appears to be Google’s ticket out of problems. First, using Swift is not impossible, as The Next Web indicated, and second, this programming language has been released under a permissive-license —”simply a non-copyleft open source license — one that guarantees the freedoms to use, modify, and redistribute, but that permits proprietary derivative works.”

SEE ALSO: Could the new Swift language lure more JVM devs to the iOS side?

Some people claim that Google is simply trading Oracle for Apple since Swift is the Cupertino-based company’s project, but the difference is that Google can use Swift and do whatever it wants with it. Google started to distance itself from the legal battle with Oracle when it announced that future Android builds would use OpenJDK. Adopting Swift would give the tech giant a chance to end its problems and make it easier for developers to build their Android apps.

Gabriela Motroc
Gabriela Motroc was editor of and JAX Magazine. Before working at Software & Support Media Group, she studied International Communication Management at the Hague University of Applied Sciences.

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