Open source Java for Android Don't bet on it

20.11.2012, von Paul Krill

Google's Android mobile software platform, as we know, has caused quite a conflict with Oracle, given that claimed Java-like Android infringed on Java patents and copyrights. But now, might Oracle and Google, or even just one of them, decide to formally develop an open source implementation of Java especially for Android

Such an endeavor has been the subject of recent chatter on the OpenJDK online newsgroup. OpenJDK is the official, Oracle-sanctioned version of open source Java. Some observers say a version of OpenJDK for Android would bring Android development to the many millions of Java developers. Java applications could run on Android devices -- so might such a project get under way From the looks of it, the answer right now would have to be no.

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Representatives for Oracle, which has eyed an appeal of the Android verdict, and Google declined to answer the question. Others in the Java space were not optimistic. "What OpenJDK [for] Android would provide would be a true Java environment for Android. For the majority of the world that understands how to develop using Java, that would be a great thing," said Scott Sellers, CEO of Java virtual machine vendor Azul Systems. "Whether or not I think it would happen, that is a different question entirely."

With Android, applications run on the Dalvik managed runtime. Android's environment is not compatible with Java even if it is similar, Sellers said, adding that Dalvik entails a learning curve. But he does not see Google being eager to move to OpenJDK. "Google doesn't have a vested interest in enabling a true Java environment for Android," he said. Sellers cites open source licensing differences as a part of the issue. OpenJDK leverages the GNU General Public License, in which any code changes or fixes must be contributed back to the community at large, a prospect not attractive to some commercial vendors, Sellers said. Dalvik abides by the Apache license, which does not have this problem, he notes.

Gosling: OpenJDK on Android could be doneThe possibility of OpenJDK on Android doesn't have any technical obstacles, Java founder James Gosling says: "Technically, it's not a huge problem. Android is just Linux on ARM, and there's already a nice ARM/Linux version of OpenJDK. There are issues that would make the current binaries inappropriate (mostly graphics integration), but it's not insurmountable." Major benefits would be performance and compatibility, Gosling says.