If you haven’t already heard, Sun Microsystems is not at all happy with Google. This “conflict” has been rumbling since the public launch of Google’s Android a few weeks ago. For those of you not up on the story I will attempt to fill you in.
When Google came up with the concept of Android Sun assumed it would be using the standard Java platform to develop it’s applications. From Sun’s point of view it was already an accepted standard among developers and it was open source, which is what this Android thing is all about, right? Well, apparently Google pulled a fast one and decided to use a slightly different version by developing their own virtual machine they code named “Dalvik”. When Android runs into Java it converts it to Dalvik format, which Google claims runs more efficient and faster on the Android platform than the standard Java VMS.
Was this really just a matter of tweaking Java to run more efficiently or did Google have ulterior motives? I’m not saying Dalvik doesn’t run more efficiently because I haven’t seen any comparisons, but this may have something to do with licensing fees as well. You see, carriers would have to pay Sun Microsystems a licensing fee if they ever wanted to make changes to Android. Google is basically saying that Dalvik is so different from the Java Virtual Machine that it’s now its own entity. This is where it gets dicey. If Sun can prove that Google used it’s intellectual property (Java language) to develop Dalvik then we could have a long drawn out case of copyright infringement. Personally I think Google would lose this one, because based on what I’ve read they did use Java as a starting point to develop Dalvik. We will leave that for the courts to decide.
What does this mean for Android? I can’t see Google taking any chances with this one. The last thing they want to do is duke it out with Sun. After all, they are both representing open source platforms, and it would look rather silly for either side to let this drag out. Let’s hope it’s resolved before the first handsets are rolled out later next year.