Oracle's silence on Google lawsuit, Java process raise eyebrows

Litigation over Java is cause for concern, but some see positives in company's development efforts

Oracle's heavy-handed approach to Google, combined with worries about the fate of the Java Community Process, has some in the Java community uneasy about Oracle's treatment of its new leadership role in Java.

In August, Oracle sued Google, alleging the Android mobile phone platform violated Java patents. A development team lead at Research in Motion expresses dismay about the Android lawsuit: "I find it concerning about suing everyone and that it threatens the open source model," says Allan McIntosh.

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In fact, Java's fate itself remains a mystery under Oracle, says consultant Evgueni Smoliar, a manager at Capgemini. Smoliar is waiting to see what happens with the Google lawsuit. "I think that will show a lot about the future of Java [under Oracle]," he says.

He also expresses disappointment about Oracle's silence about the lack of any plans for a new Java Community Process (JCP) for enterprise Java. Recently, Java founder James Gosling has called for Oracle to live up to a 2007 pledge seeking formation of an independent JCP not dominated by a single vendor. But in 2007, Sun was in charge, not Oracle.

Smoliar says he would prefer to see a group of companies running Java rather than just Oracle. While some Java technologies, such as the Spring Framework, have sprung up independent of the JCP, the JCP plays a crucial role in Java standardization.

Wearing a Gosling-endorsed "Java: Just Free It" pin, Magnus, an architect who preferred to be identified by only his first name, stresses his preference for a "free Java." He defines a free Java as one "highly governed by the community and not by specific commercial interests."

Oracle's Thomas Kurian, executive vice president of product development, declined to discuss Gosling's proposal. But Ted Farrell, Oracle chief architect and senior vice president for tools and middleware, pledges the status quo: "We're continuing Java as Sun had it."

Giving Oracle a qualified thumbs-up was developer Stan Williams of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It would appear, he says, "that Oracle has made the commitment to continue to support Java." But that commitment for support may not mean a similar commitment for openness: "Will it be as open as it has been with Sun? I don't know yet," Williams said.

Also in Oracle's corner is Java developer Alan Naujokas of the U.S. Defense Department. Java might even fare better under Oracle than it did under Sun because Oracle is talking about shorter release times for the technology, he says. "In the past, the time between versions was a long time, getting longer," Naujokas notes. He hopes that Java itself maintains some independence within Oracle rather than being geared toward Oracle products.

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