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Oracle-IBM pact cuts Android off at the knees

Larry Ellison's latest move could seriously undermine Android, no matter how Oracle's courtroom battles with Google turn out

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Oracle-IBM pact cuts Android off at the knees

If you have only a passing interest in Java development, you probably didn't think of much of yesterday's announcement that Oracle and IBM will cooperate on an open source implementation of Java. But any tech observer knows Google's Android platform is big news, and that Oracle's lawsuit against Google over the Java components underlying the platform is a wild card that could change the way the mobile and embedded landscape develops.

Nobody at Oracle said the word "Android" in the announcement, but the pact with IBM has the potential to seriously undermine the Android platform, no matter how the courtroom struggle turns out.

[ InfoWorld's Martin Heller calls Oracle's Android lawsuit a Pandora's box of serious evils. | Also on InfoWorld: Developers are unhappy over Oracle Android suit. | Keep your Java skills sharp with our JavaWorld Enterprise Java newsletter. ]

Here's the story in a nutshell: Android apps are written in a restricted dialect of the Java language, which meant the platform had a vast and skilled developer community from the moment it was released. The components of Android that allow it to run Java code are based on the Harmony project, an open source implementation of Java created under the aegis of the Apache Software Foundation. The vast majority of the code in Harmony was actually written by IBM employees, because Big Blue decided Harmony would be where it would direct its Java development efforts.

But that's no longer the case, the core of the IBM-Oracle deal is that those employees will now switch their attention to OpenJDK, Oracle's in-house open source Java implementation. The move completely sucks the wind out of Harmony's sails, with Tim Ellison, one of Harmony's senior developers, essentially conceding the project will probably fold in short order.

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