IBM and Oracle -- once rivals in the competition to buy Sun Microsystems before it imploded, and still adversaries in databases, software and anything else not involving hardware or overgroomed consultants in dark blue suits -- have signed a deal to support the same Java development effort, reducing the chance that there will be two major versions loose in the wild.
IBM had been the primary backer of Apache's Harmony version of Java SE 6, which had been gaining backers looking for quicker development than Sun was able to manage during its acquisition and mastication by Oracle.
IBM changed gears after realizing its old enemy Oracle was going to stiff it on access to the Java SE Technology Compatibility Kit Apache needed to keep its implementation standard and interoperable, according to a blog post from Bob Suitor, IBM VP of Linux and Open Source.
"We disagreed with [Oracle's] choice, but it was not ours to make. So rather than continue to drive Harmony as an unofficial and uncertified Java effort, we decided to shift direction and put our efforts into OpenJDK."
Either version would have had to be certified by the open-source Java Community Process, but the portions of Java-related code that Sun retained after moving Java into the Open-Source world in 2006 give Oracle the developmental advantage.
The pact also consolidates Oracle's war front, allowing it to focus more effort on the lawsuit it filed against Google for allegedly violating Java patents in its Android smartphone OS, applications for which are written in a restricted dialect of the Java language. That restricts developers to a certain extent, but gave Android an instant installed-base of applications when it shipped.
Oracle claims Android infringes on Java patents and conflicts with the smartphone-oriented Java Micro Edition, which is free to developers, but requires a paid license from commercial distributors.
Google lawyer Kent Walker said the suit isn't an attack on Google or Android specifically, "...but against any Java development not sanctioned by Oracle."