Windows & .NET Watch: Big business behaving badly
September 15, 2010 —
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Related Search Term(s): Google, Oracle
I was shocked, shocked when Oracle sued Google for patent infringement relating to the use of Java technology in the Android platform. The owner of Java using patents to shake down a large competitor that felt that it had to manipulate Java in order to meet its technology needs? Unprecedented!
Sun never mastered the trick of turning technological innovations into market share. Going back to the late 1980s, they were always the company that seemed to have the technology that was going to take over the world in just a few years. They had one of the first great development environments for programming and debugging large C applications, they had chip technology that seemed destined to displace Intel, they had beautiful graphics workstations, they had thin clients that provided a glimpse of “living in the cloud, and of course they had Java. Ironically, for a company that was focused on hardware, Java’s success was due largely to its availability on different server architectures.
I specify “server” architectures because Java’s success as a language for writing client applications has always been minimal. In the late 1990s, recognizing the success of Java but the lack of uptake for Java-based GUI development, Microsoft extended their version of Java so that it could easily interface with native Windows components, and so that it could use the “delegate” model for event-handling, which had been pioneered in Delphi and which eventually made its way in to C#.
Sun sued Microsoft, claiming that Microsoft’s extensions would confuse developers (locking them in so that their applications could only run on Windows), and having altogether nefarious motives. Sun ultimately prevailed and received a boxcar full of hundred-dollar bills, and Microsoft walked away from Java, creating C# and the .NET framework.
In recent years, recognizing the success of Java but knowing that it had to compete with the iPhone, Google created the Dalvik VM, which among other potentially infringing things uses a different bytecode language than Java’s. Dalvik’s also a register-based machine as opposed to stack-based, but as with almost all software patent lawsuits, the technical details of potential infringement have nothing to do with the choice to sue. Will anyone be shocked if Google suddenly discovers that some piece in Oracle’s software portfolio infringes upon one of Google’s many patents and decides to countersue?