Oracle Suit Against Android Threatens Open-Source Existence

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-08-17

Oracle Suit Against Android Threatens Open-Source Existence

There's no question that Oracle just hates the very idea of open-source software. The suit against Google over its use of Java in the open-source Android mobile operating system is really just part of a pattern.  

If you look at what's happened already, the pattern has become clear. Oracle has already killed Open Solaris, sending out a note to developers that there will be no more updates to the code. It's already clear that MySQL, which Oracle sees as competition to its own database, is on the chopping block.  

The rest of Sun's open-source legacy is going the same way. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, in his blog, contends that Oracle is also intent on killing Red Hat and, if possible, Linux. Java, of course, as an open-source technology is also probably on the chopping block, as is indicated by the suit against Google. About the only major open-source effort not mentioned so far is OpenOffice, which was certainly supported by Sun and is now likely to lose whatever support it might have had there. 

The only reason I can think of that Oracle would keep OpenOffice alive is because it would annoy Microsoft. But remember, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has a stated goal of not only winning, but making sure everyone else loses. He won't be satisfied by just annoying Microsoft, so if he can find a way to use the work that Sun engineers did in helping create OpenOffice to build a commercial office suite to challenge Microsoft, then that's probably what will happen. OpenOffice will become OracleOffice if there's a way to accomplish that. 

Once Oracle has had a couple of years to complete its version of ethnic cleansing, the open-source landscape will look like Kurdistan after one of Saddam's gas attacks. Bodies everywhere, and a landscape that's essentially lifeless. 

It's true that there are already plans to keep the open-source movement alive. The engineers working on Open Solaris have already started working on a Solaris beyond Oracle. But whether they can make it fly is open to question. Perhaps they can-so many of Sun's engineers have bailed from Oracle that the knowledge pool is available. But there still needs to be a framework and an organization. Perhaps that will come together, and perhaps it won't. 

A little farther down the piles of devastation you'll see MySQL. You can assume that its days are numbered. Oracle is not going to let a direct competitor to its own core software product survive. Likewise, Java's days are also probably numbered. While Oracle can't kill it outright, if the company starts filing lawsuits wherever Java is used, it'll have the same effect. 

Oracle Puts the Squeeze on Open-Source Software


We still don't know whether Oracle's lawsuit is aimed at ultimately killing off Android, but it's a sure thing that Oracle will do whatever it can to make life miserable at Google. And if the company can't win outright, it'll try to wear it down with hundreds of other suits, many against the developers of Android apps.

Since those are in many cases small companies without Google's resources, they'll likely fall under an Oracle assault in short order. The final blow to Android may come not in the death of the OS itself, but rather from an empty app store. Why buy an Android device if there are no applications? 

Now there's the next question: What do you do to keep your company from being caught up in the Oracle Wars? First of all, you should examine how you're using Java, and make sure that it's in line with the exact wording of the GPL. Then, start thinking of other languages you can use, so when Oracle finds a way to pull the plug on Java, you won't go down the drain with it. 

Second, examine how you're using Linux. While it's unlikely that even Larry Ellison can kill Linux, it's very likely that he'll find a way to effectively get Red Hat Linux out of open source by making his Unbreakable Linux a closed environment. Yes, I know the GPL doesn't allow that, but I don't think that the GPL anticipated Oracle's scorched earth practices.  

Finally, you'll need to examine your dependence on open-source applications. While Oracle probably can't do much directly to the companies that write them, the company can poison the environment they need to survive, if only to make sure they also lose. 

If it looks like I'm painting a very bleak picture of what can happen to the open-source movement after Oracle pulls Sun out of it, you're right. Despite the fact that Oracle has benefited from the innovations of the open-source community, letting open source thrive doesn't square with Oracle's practice of making sure they win and everyone else loses. While Oracle won't kill open source, it'll do a lot to kill that innovation, and it'll do what it can to make life difficult for those who create those innovations. It's probably shortsighted, but then, focusing on making others lose has never been a long-term benefit to the industry in general. 

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