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Computing Thoughts
Free As In Lawsuit
by Bruce Eckel
August 16, 2010
It's been taking forever to open-source Java. Oracle's lawsuit with Google makes me wonder if it's ever going to happen.


From CNET, Oracle has "filed suit against Google for infringing on copyrights and patents related to Java ..." If Oracle thinks it can get a bunch of money from Google the way Sun did from Microsoft (a billion or two, if memory serves, making it the most money Java ever made for Sun), what incentive does it have to continue the open-sourcing process? Wouldn't it, in fact, destroy the lawsuit if Java gets open-sourced?

A Redmonk Article says "A Java ecosystem dominated by Oracle is a doomed ecosystem" and "This suit is going to negatively impact – probably substantially – Java adoption." In an excellent in-depth analysis, Charles Nutter concludes that "... the real damage will be in how the developer community perceives Java ..." Nutter also points out that Android is "... a subset of a Java-like platform that doesn't actually run Java bytecode and doesn't use any code from OpenJDK." Groklaw has a no-holds barred analysis of the mess.

Now, if you are choosing a programing language, aren't you more likely to consider something truly unencumbered like Ruby or Python -- where something like this just wouldn't happen -- than you are Java? Joel West points out a problem that Sun always had -- that of semi-openness -- which now comes back to bite those that trusted it.

But the worst outcome for Oracle is already certain; here they follow in Microsoft's footsteps. Microsoft has become a place shunned by innovative software developers, partly because of their anti-open-source approach, and partly because management infighting prevents interesting things from getting done (what fun it must have been to be on the Kin team, for example). Oracle makes it clear where they stand, and they will find themselves wondering why "you just can't find good programmers anymore." It's because Oracle is not even on their radar. Unfortunately, this is one of those "furniture police" moments: by cramming the furniture closer together, the spreadsheet shows money being saved, and since we can't measure the impact on morale and potential employees (those can't be fit into spreadsheet cells), we just ignore those factors. The maxim of scientific management is, after all, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it."

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2010 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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