The Cost Of Interconnected Software

July 6, 2015 - Written By David Steele

The computer language Java was originally released almost twenty years old, but was originally developed by Sun Microsystems back in 1991. Java includes the programming language, virtual machine and a set of libraries for use with the language. When Google released a beta of Android back in November 2007, it was noted that it contained some Java technologies and Sun’s Chief Executive Officer, Jonathan Schwartz, replied the same day with a memorable quote: Google had “strapped another set of rockets to the community’s momentum — and to the vision defining opportunity across our (and other) planets.” Google and Sun negotiated regarding a possible partnership and licensing deals for Java, but no agreement was reached. For a time this did not seem to matter until Oracle purchased Sun in early 2010. Oracle and Google continued the discussions regarding Java but no agreement was reached and in August 2010, Oracle sued Google claiming that Android infringed various Java copyrights.

Google fought Oracle’s case: in 2010, Android was still in its relative infancy but rapidly gaining support across the world. Roll forward approximately four and a half years and the United States’ Supreme Court told Google to pay Oracle approximately one billion dollars as a royalty payment last month. This follows another case against Google, this time from Microsoft, where manufacturers building an Android device must pay Microsoft a licence for using their copyright technology. For most manufacturers this in the form of a cash payment, but Microsoft and Samsung have worked out a different deal, almost certainly why new Samsung devices come with pre-installed Microsoft applications. However, there are some important differences between the Microsoft versus Google deal and Oracle versus Google. Specifically, the Microsoft royalties pertain to copyrights rather than patents: whilst some manufacturers are happy to criticize Microsoft software seems that none wish to criticize their copyright protection. Nevertheless, Google’ free software does come with a (relatively small) direct financial cost.

These two cases also highlight the interconnected relationships between different platform and companies. Picking a mobile platform is about preferences because in terms of capabilities, the main platforms are either similar or can quickly and easily become similar. The question consumers must ask themselves is: whom do I trust with my data? What existing services do I need to connect? Perhaps a customer may select Android as an operating system of choice because he or she does not like Microsoft… only to discover that Android contains Microsoft technologies buried the skin?