UPDATED 22:14 EDT / DECEMBER 30 2015


Google to dump Oracle’s APIs for OpenJDK in Android

Google has been involved in a legal dispute with database vendor Oracle that’s dragged on for years, but now it looks like the search engine giant is maneuvering, either because it wants to make the outcome of the case irrelevant, or because it’s fearing a less than favorable outcome.

Google said yesterday it’s planning to strip out software used by its Android operating system that Oracle says is proprietary, and use an open-source alternative instead. To be more specific, Google will implement OpenJDK – an open-source version of the Java platform – with all future Android builds.

All current versions of Android use a Java class library based on the original Apache Harmony project that was led by Sun Microsystems until it was acquired by Oracle in 2011. Android needs a Java class library because many of the applications people have come to love are written in Java and run on the Dalvik engine.

So for Google, the only viable options are to use Oracle’s Java (which it has done for years) or the OpenJDK version instead. Now though, it seems that Google has decided to take the plunge and go with the latter option, as discussed in this Hacker News thread.

Google confirmed the news in the following statement to VentureBeat:

“As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community. In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

Google didn’t make any mention of its legal wrangles with Oracle, but many are linking the move to that case.

At issue in the dispute is whether or not Google illegally copied Java’s application programming interfaces (APIs) and baked them into Android. While Google doesn’t deny it took the APIs, it claims that APIs can’t be copyrighted and that Oracle has no claim to them. The company one the initial lawsuit but more recently the appeals process has started to swing in Oracle’s favor, and the latest development even saw the Department of Justice wade into the case to take sides with Oracle.

The case is still ongoing but the smart money is on Oracle prevailing, at which point Google could well be hit with a massive fine (Oracle originally demanded $6 billion in compensation) or banned from using the Java APIs.

While Google says it’s better for developers to standardize on OpenJDK, one can’t help but think the real reason its adopting OpenJDK now is because it’s expecting a negative ruling in the legal battle.

Image credit: Andrekheren via pixabay.com

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