How the Oracle vs. Google fight over Java use-by-inspiration on Android could effect how software is done

Good summary of the Oracle/Google case over Java in Android. Also, good discussion if possible implications for the outcome, either way: either SW vendors will have to pay more for re-use, or legal controls in OSS licensing weaken.

The wrap-up is great clarity:

And then of course there is the cold reality of what Google actually did.

Google didn’t want [to work with Sun/Oracle] because it wanted to control the subsequent ecosystem. And so, the truth is, it knowingly grabbed Java, and pulled in the parts it simply couldn’t avoid using.

I’ve wanted to write a book on what went wrong with Sun for a long time: Sun WTF. I haven’t thought too much about this episode, but it’s likely a major part. In the last years of its life Sun was trying to make money by participating in large, new, growth markets – like mobile in the 2000s, “the cloud.” It has assets everywhere, but couldn’t figure out how to monetize them.

Theory (in that I have no idea if it’s true or not): it’s so difficult to make money by “participating” in a high growth market that you shouldn’t do that strategy. It’s not sustainable (see Sun’s crash after the dot.bomb when dumb money stopped buying servers?). You need a hard, protected asset (software you have to pay for) or some kind of dominate position.

Further, theory: open source is not a viable business model, if ever it was. You have to have closed source (or “impossible to get source” as with public cloud) to get revenue. We confuse open source companies with high valuations with viable businesses. Somewhere, you need something that isn’t freely available. One line of inquiry on this theory would be to look at the on-premises, multi-cloud things like Google Anthos, VMware Tanzu, RedHat’s stuff, etc.: how much of that is open source vs. proprietary. I think you’d have to look at more than the code, and the integration work to pull all the parts together (including thing like regulatory and security certification that came only with the official build of those products/suites).

I don’t really know the answer here.

Because of open source and the “free to use your ideas” mentality of Google’s position here, for years, developers have enjoyed free access to quality, for lack of a better term, “IP”: all the actual tools but also know-how to write applications (and backing services, and infrastructure). As Stephen puts it:

As a result, developers then and since have had a vast array of tools and services at their fingertips, with more software and services arriving by the day. Nearly anything that a developer could want is available, at either no cost or for an amount that is accessible for most, if only on a trial basis.

That’s another consequence to look out for: does a decision either way change that?

Original source: After ten years, the Google vs Oracle API copyright mega-battle finally hit the Supreme Court – and we listened in