You've heard all about Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL ) going for Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) mobile jugular with lawsuits over unlicensed use of Java technologies. Android handsets don't actually run Java code, but the platform leans heavily on Java tools and concepts -- take away Java and you'll kill Android.
Big G just got itself a human shield, or perhaps a weapon it can use to return fire.
When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, arguably to control the rights to the Java language, Java godfather James Gosling didn't want any part of it. Now he's got a job in Mountain View, and while Gosling says he doesn't know what he'll be working on, you can bet a pretty penny that he'll see a great deal of Android action and become very familiar with Google's legal eagles.
Gosling has made no secret of his disdain for Oracle and its charismatic leader, Larry Ellison. After leaving Oracle, he detailed his fears about Sun's Solaris platform and assorted Java projects meeting a sordid fate. He drew parallels between Ellison and Genghis Khan, and noted that "Ethics and consistency aren't exactly the LPOD's reputation." So what's an LPOD? "Larry, Prince Of Darkness," of course.
So Gosling has both the background to make a difference to the Android defense, and an axe to grind that's big enough to keep him motivated.
I don't know if that's enough to tip the legal battle in Google's favor, or indeed what the odds are of total victory for either side. What I do know is that Android is an important platform for Google and well worth fighting for. As for Oracle, Ellison isn't known for keeping a tight leash on his attack dogs. A settlement seems less likely than a full-blown court battle that could drag out over years of partial victories and appeals. The doggedness with which Oracle recently pursued a legal dispute with SAP (NYSE: SAP ) over a small SAP subsidiary illegally using Oracle documentation shows the viciousness these court battles can take.
In the meantime, Android stays in the marketplace by hook or by crook -- with or without the legal right to do so. Any damage Google might suffer from this circus is years away and by no means guaranteed.
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