When Oracle Sues Google, Who Really Wins?

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When Oracle sued Google over its use, or as Oracle would have it, Google's misuse of Java intellectual property in Android, the first questions were why and what did Oracle hope to gain?

My only pet theory is straightforward and simple: Oracle wants to skim big-bucks from Android. But, even if a miracle happens and Oracle wins every one of their claims, we're still talking years before Oracle sees a single red-cent.

Still lots of people will profit in the short run from Oracle. Here's my list:

1) Apple: While I don't think that Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, started the lawsuit against Google just to make his buddy Steve Jobs happy, there can be no doubt that giving Android trouble will make life easier for Apple iPhone sales.

Android Linux smartphone sales are going through the roof. The iPhone is also very popular, but as times goes on, it's becoming more clear that the smartphone competition was going to be a three-horse race: RIM's Blackberry, the iPhone, and Android. Blackberry is a business-first phone meaning that for most users it was a choice between Android and the iPhone. With that being the case, I'm sure Jobs was pleased to see some trouble coming Android's way.

Maybe Jobs' will get Larry something nice for his next birthday.

2) Microsoft: Microsoft, on the other hand, should give Ellison at least another yacht for the holidays. As my friend and fellow writer Preston Gralla pointed out, "No matter what happens with the suit, though, it hurts Google, and helps Microsoft at a time when Microsoft is particularly vulnerable in mobile."

You could say that. Windows Mobile had become a bad joke in smartphone circles. But, now, it seems to be gaining some popularity with developers again. I mean, can you see the Windows Phone 7 Developer Tools being downloaded more than 300,000 times before Oracle made Android developers worried?

I can't.

Maybe Ballmer should throw in another plane for Larry to go along with his MIG-29 Fulcrum fighter while he's at it.

3) MeeGo: MeeGo, the Intel-Nokia open-source Linux for devices, doesn't have the cash to give Larry Ellison a big present, but this group owes him one too. I think that MeeGo, which uses the traditional Linux desktop development tools instead of Android's Java-based interface, now, has a real chance to get some of the smartphone market. Before Oracle's lawsuit, the best I'd hoped for MeeGo, given Android's popularity in smartphones, was to carve out its own niche. I thought it might do well, for example, with car entertainment and navigation systems. Now, I think it has a real shot in phones as well.

4) Patent Litigators: Some people have said that Oracle is acting like a patent troll. I disagree. Patent trolls sit on patents and wait for someone to mistakenly spend money building something from a forgotten idea and then jump on them to rip them off for millions. Oracle makes billions by actually creating software; it's just that the company would like to make a few hundreds of millions by jabbing Google in their soft IP (intellectual property) belly as well.

Welcome to business in 2010. Thanks to the Supreme Court's supremely bad decision in the Bilski case, we're going to be stuck for at least another decade with a deformed patent system. If we're lucky, the major industry powers aren't going to start patent wars with each other and Oracle vs. Google will be an isolated case. If not, and I fear this will be the case, we're going to see lots of patent cases. This will result in far less innovation in all technical fields, higher prices for all technologies, and, oh yes, richer patent attorneys.


5) Proprietary Software: Last, but not least, open-source software in general is taking it on the chin. Patent worries tend to freeze all development, but until now, despite Microsoft's best patent saber rattling, these claims haven't mattered much in open-source circles. Well, now they do.

The good news is that the Linux Foundation has started the Open Compliance Program, a comprehensive initiative to help companies and developers comply with open-source licenses. There are also other groups like the Open Invention Network trying to defend against patent attacks on Linux and businesses like Black Duck Software and Palamida that can help independent software vendors and other businesses block IP attacks.

The bad news is that IP attacks are now more of a worry for open-source developers than they have been before. SCO's feeble attacks on Linux were a sideshow. Oracle's patents attack is far more worrisome.

This story, "When Oracle Sues Google, Who Really Wins?" was originally published by ITworld.

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