Microsoft’s Android-related lawsuit against Barnes & Noble reminds us of SCO Group’s 2004 lawsuit against AutoZone.
To grossly oversimplify: At the time, SCO alleged that Linux contained code stolen from Unix, and it wanted anyone who used Linux to pay SCO a licensing fee to indemnify against SCO’s possible lawsuits. SCO sued AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler, claiming that because the two companies used Linux, they were therefore using SCO’s Unix intellectual property without a license. The suits were not successful, but did scare many IT professionals, and perhaps slowed down Linux adoption in the enterprise.
The more recent lawsuit by Microsoft alleges that Android violates five of Microsoft’s patents. Because Barnes & Noble’s e-book reader is based on Android, the suit claims that B&N is using Microsoft’s intellectual property without a license.
Is the goal to get some incremental revenue for Microsoft? More likely, the goal is to hurt Google, which is currently Public Enemy No. 1 on the Redmond campus. If Microsoft can slow down Android, that gives Windows Mobile a chance to catch up.
By contrast, Oracle’s lawsuit against Google—related to Android’s Java virtual machine, called Dalvik—is probably focused more on getting cash into Larry Ellison’s seemingly endless coffers.
In either case, however, we believe that none of these lawsuits will succeed in significantly impacting Android, Android device makers, software developers or consumers. Whether these are resolved in courtrooms or in the proverbial smoke-filled room, they will be resolved in a way that doesn’t slow Android’s momentum.
Perhaps Google will rewrite key parts of the platform to avoid the IP contested by Microsoft and Oracle. Perhaps it’ll write a check or (more likely) arrange a broad cross-licensing agreement with customer indemnification. In either case, we’re not worried. And (with the caveat that we’re not lawyers) we don’t believe you should be worried either.
Eclipse Foundation’s newly active role
Is the Eclipse Foundation a tool maker or a king maker? Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Foundation, appeared to be throwing down the gauntlet when he told SD Times’ Alex Handy, “I made it really clear in Eclipse’s vote on the Java 8 JSR that if there wasn’t room for OSGi to play within the modularity story for Java 8, that we would be voting against it.”
Those don’t sound like the cautious words of an organization focused on building tools. Certainly, the Eclipse Foundation has grown up and has moved far beyond its initial spin-off from IBM’s tools group. Its seat at the Java Community Process’s Java SE/EE Executive Committee table is a de facto recognition that Eclipse, not NetBeans, is on top of the tool stack. But there’s clearly more going on at the Foundation.
One area of interest is clearly OSGi. While the OSGi Alliance is nominally an independent vendor consortium, it’s clear to any observer that the Eclipse Foundation is the true standard-bearer of the dynamic module system for Java. Even though the Eclipse Foundation doesn’t even have a seat on the OSGi Alliance’s board, when we meet with Eclipse officials, they say “OSGi” more than they say “Eclipse.” For the past five years, OSGi DevCon has been co-located with EclipseCon. And, as one can tell by Milinkovich’s comment, the Eclipse Foundation is representing—and voting—OSGI’s interests at the JCP.
We like seeing the new, more active Eclipse Foundation, willing to weigh in on technologies and specifications beyond its own. The JCP is strengthened through the Foundation’s involvement, just as it was with Apache on the board (until it resigned in December 2010, in a huff, over disagreements about test compatibility kit licenses). We encourage Eclipse to stay involved, and for Mike Milinkovich to keep up the pressure.