Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Butterfly Effect of Oracle’s Lawsuit Against Google

No one knows with any degree of certainty what the outcome will be from Oracle’s patent infringement lawsuit against Google.  While the impetus of the lawsuit is largely focused on Dalvik, Google’s mobile VM based on Java, the consequences of legal action will likely reverberate through the larger Java world. 

I don’t have a dog in this fight.  Yet. On the one hand, Oracle appears to be hell bent on reversing Sun’s decision to release Java to the open source community, according to an InfoWorld article:

It's no secret that Larry Ellison wants to make money from Java, something Sun's execs, whom Ellison held in contempt, was never able to do. It may be that Oracle wants nothing more than a cut of Google's Android revenue -- IDC's Will Stofega told Bloomberg News that the case will probably end with Google agreeing to pay to license Oracle's patents.

On the flip side, it sure looks like Google didn't do any favors for itself either. 

Whatever the case, there are potential far reaching implications of Java in the open source world.  For one, it will reinvigorate the debate around software patents. More specific to my interests here, XML was, and is, heavily influenced by Java and open source. Think Xerces and Xalan, Saxon, FOP, Ant, and more recently Calabash and Calumet.  It also factors in to related technologies like the APIs  for eXist and MarkLogic, and fuels reference implementations of standards like DITA (see the DITA Open Toolkit).

My immediate reaction is the cat’s already out of the bag: Java is already open source, which means nothing will change for XML technologies.  For now.  In the short term, it’s very likely the only ones affected are Android application developers.  Longer term, however, Oracle’s behavior might well impact a wide array of technologies, including XML, by deterring developers from using Java in the first place.  That would be a huge detriment to XML across many technologies and industries.  Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point.

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