Open source Java for Android? Don't bet on it

Industry observers aren't optimistic, despite chatter about the possibility in OpenJDK circles

By , InfoWorld |  Software, Android, java

Usefulness questionedWhile some observers see obvious benefits for OpenJDK on Android, a developer who's organized both Java and Android user groups sees the current setup, which leverages Dalvik, as superior. "It's way less memory-intensive than standard Java would be, including OpenJDK-based Java," says Aleksandar Gargenta, organizer of the San Francisco Android User Group and the San Francisco Java User Group. A technologist with open source technology trainer Marakana, Gargenta also favors Dalvik's security model, which allows applications to be sandboxed. "Dalvik is technically superior for the model that Android offers," says Gargenta.

As far as OpenJDK opening up Android to Java developers, Gargenta says they already have access: "Java developers already know the language necessary to develop for Android." Developers write in Java and the code is packaged for Android. Regardless, Gargenta does not see OpenJDK happening for Android.

Analysts doubtfulIndustry analysts in the software development space did not have much optimism to add to the debate.

"I think the Java on Android ship has sailed and survived a major 'engagement' with Oracle," says analyst John Rymer, of Forrester Research. "I suppose OpenJDK could seek to provide an alternative Java environment but I don't see it happening. First, why would [developers] care? Second, Oracle and IBM are uninterested in 'clients', as they monetize servers." Also, OpenJDK is late on its road map and mobile would be a distraction," Rymer argues. He also argues that Oracle bans the kind of innovating-on-core that produced Google Dalvik, so partners could not do the port independent of Oracle.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa says he is not sure Oracle wants anything to do with Android yet. He also cites potential open source licensing issues: "In theory, [OpenJDK for Android] is possible, but someone is going to have to write or port a lot of low-level code to access mobile specific capabilities related to smartphones. GPL licenses often restrict vendors from monetizing the code in certain ways without making it also open source, so that might be another factor."

Sellers, though, sees an opportunity for the community at large. "Maybe people in the community will take on their own [initiative] to do it." A handset manufacturer might even be up for the task, says Sellers.


Originally published on InfoWorld |  Click here to read the original story.
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