Java chapter in Android story

Blogosphere keeps providing more and more insights into the Google Android story.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Android platform has a lot to do with Java.  In fact, many people consider the level to which Java is integrated into the platform to be the “big news”, unique and all.  Here is a quote from Simon Brocklehurst’s post titled “Putting The Android SDK In Perspective” (read the whole piece, it’s very good):

Android has integrated the Java platform deeply into the phone. In other words, it’s a native application platform for Android phones. No-one has done this before, and it will allow new types of application to be developed (Google has set aside $10M to give away to developers to stimulate development of such software – I hope young entrepreneurs use this opportunity, some great little companies could be started by following this path). It should be noted that Sun’s forthcoming mobile OS platform, JavaFX Mobile, is based around almost exactly the same concept.

After I read the last sentence, I realized that the story is even deeper than I thought.  Google is jumping into competition with Sun, using Sun’s own Java technology.  How is that possible?  Sun was never known for its generosity.  Did it suddenly change?  And what about Microsoft, who invest heavily into both Java and mobile industry?  How did they let this happen?  And what about all those licenses, alliances, and competition?

Google Blogoscoped has an insightful post titled “How Google Android Routes Around Java Restrictions” which explains a few things.  Here are a few quotes to get you started:

Sun released their “free java” source code under the GPLv2 to both win the free software crowd and capture peripheral innovation and bug fixing from the community. For the java standard edition (aka “the cat is out of the bag”) there is an exception to the GPLv2 that makes it “reciprocal” only for the Java platform code itself but not for the user code running on it (or most people wouldn’t even dare touching it with a pole).
But such exception to the GPLv2 is not there for the mobile edition (aka “where the money is”).
This brilliant move allows Sun to play “free software paladin” on one hand and still enjoy complete control of the licensing and income creation for the Java ME platform on mobile and embedded devices on the other

Dalvik is a virtual machine, just like Java’s or .NET’s.. but it’s Google’s own and they’re making it open source without having to ask permission to anyone

Android uses the syntax of the Java platform (the Java “language”, if you wish, which is enough to make java programmers feel at home and IDEs to support the editing smoothly) and the java SE class library but not the Java bytecode or the Java virtual machine to execute it on the phone (and, note, Android’s implementation of the Java SE class library is, indeed, Apache Harmony’s!)

So, here we are: Apple makes the iPhone, incredibly sweet, slick and game-changing and yet incredibly locked. Google makes Android and not only unlocks development abilities on the mobile phone but also unlocks millions of potential Java mobile programmers from Sun’s grip on it.

This is fascinating stuff.  Even if a bit technical for non-IT audience, still fun to read through…

2 thoughts on “Java chapter in Android story”

  1. There are some updates from OnJava blog from O’Reilly network.
    With every day the story becomes more and more interesting. I do believe that it will continue with some trials on patenting of Java technologies, however will Sun have enough of stamina to fight with Google?..Doubt about that

  2. Andrey,

    this gu on the OnJava blog seems to miss the first two paragraphs of the Blogoscoped’ article, which explains why Google did the move…

    Regarding Sun Microsystems fighting Google… well, this is definitely a possibility, although it would be very silly of Sun. Now it tries to protect a pie that it can’t eat by itself. Instead, it should share it with the other guys, who bring food to the party.

    I think Google has much more momentum, driving force, and resources right now than any of the opposition (Sun, Microsoft, et al)… These guys can slow the process a bit, if they work hard, but they can’t stop the progress. The truth of the matter is that all (and I mean ALL) mobile phones suck today. Including iPhone. And them being very closed and restricted is one of the reasons for that sucking.

    There is a need for an open mobile platform, and this need will be satisfied eventually. If Google won’t do (although I think that will), somebody else will… Sun or not, Microsoft or not, etc…

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