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Java IoT: Article

Java Trial: Google Witnesses Incredibly Hazy

Google CEO Larry Page testified that he couldn’t remember much of anything

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, decked out in dark Armani duds for the trial of his landmark case against Google and Android, testified Tuesday that he had considered buying RIM or Palm to compete against Apple and its iPhone.

Ultimately he decided that RIM was too expensive and Palm wasn't competitive enough and a separate "Project Java Phone" that Oracle had started was a "bad idea."

Google's lawyer claimed that because Oracle failed to develop its own product it's going after Google and Android to get a piece of the action.

Google CEO Larry Page, widely reported as uncomfortable on the witness stand and unable to make eye contract except with the ceiling, testified that he couldn't remember much of anything.

He appeared so evasive and said "I don't recall" or "I'm not sure" to so many of the questions posed by Oracle's star lawyer, David Boies, that CNBC ran the headline "Blank Page?"

He didn't know how Android was developed but he was still sure Google hadn't done anything wrong.

He didn't know the details of the internal Google documents Boies showed him indicating the company knew it needed a license going back to 2005.

He didn't know much about any negotiations other than that Google failed to strike a commercial for-money Java deal with Sun. (He did contribute that Google thought of substituting Microsoft mobile technology for Java.)

And although he was supposed to be personally involved in the decision to use Java without a license he claimed he didn't know who the engineer was who wrote the famous Lindholm e-mail Google's lawyers were so desperate to suppress, the one telling Page they had looked elsewhere, that nothing would substitute for Java and that they'd better license it.

When Tim Lindholm, a distinguished engineer and one of the original developers of Java at Sun before he went to Google - who also appears to have had some license negotiations with Sun on behalf of Google although, like Page, he wouldn't be pinned down - was called to the stand Thursday he didn't know who he might have meant when he wrote in August 2010:

"What we've been asked to do (by Larry and Sergei [sic]) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We've been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need."

He testified that he didn't mean Google should get a license from Sun and after what ZDnet called "dancing around" he settled for "not specifically a license from anybody" when pointedly asked who he was talking about. At that juncture Boies was through with him.

Google's lawyers maintain that Google didn't need a license because it only used the freely available Java programming language that's in the public domain and that the language would be "basically useless" without the APIs.

"It's not about them protecting their intellectual property," one said of Oracle. "It's not about protecting the Java community. They want to share in Google's success with Android even though they had nothing to do with Android."

Google supposedly built Android from scratch. There are - by accident, Google says - only nine lines of duplicated code of the Java APIs in Android's 1.5 million lines of source code.

Although Sun supposedly had no problem with Android - former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz publicly said nice things about it when it arrived - Oracle now wants a billion dollars in damages claiming Google illegally and with knowledge aforethought used Java in Android and, if it gets really lucky, an injunction that should prove more valuable that any damages award.

Oracle's contention that the Java APIs are copyrighted - and so require a license - could have serious ramifications throughout the industry, not just on the most widely used mobile operating system and its ecosystem.

And it would be hard to miss the fact that there are copyright notices on every page of Java.

Ellison told the jury that Google "is the only company I know" without a Java license. He said, "If people could copy our software - create cheap knockoffs of our products - "we wouldn't be able to pay for our engineering." Oracle spends $5 billion a year on R&D and Ellison said creating APIs "is arguably one of the most difficult things we do."

He said he met to no avail with Page and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt about making Android compatible with standard Java.

The judge told Page that after two appearances on the witness stand this week he would probably be called back again.

The trial could run eight weeks depending on how its three phases go. Oracle copyright claims are up now to be followed by patent liability and - if it gets that far - remedies. Then the appeal cycle would probably start.

Most of Thursday was spent taking the jury through the technical weeds of Java APIs.

There's one description of what was said at http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57416413-94/apis-take-center-stage-at-oracle-google-trial/.

See also www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/googles-lindholm-dances-around-questions-about-java-licences/74791 for Lindholm's performance.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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