• Robin Alex Panicker

Google vs Oracle - Implications of Supreme Court verdict for Android app ecosystem

The decade long legal war between Google and Oracle regarding the former's right to use Java SE APIs has concluded now with the Supreme Court verdict dated 5th April, 2021. The court ruled that Google was very much in its right to use JAVA SE APIs and provide an implementation that best suited the Android mobile environment.


For those not familiar with the legal case, the dispute was if Google was legally correct in using the APIs of JAVA SE, and providing its own implementation. When Java was still with Sun, there was not much of a dispute it seems. But when Oracle acquired Sun they decided to file a lawsuit against Google. APIs provide the interface signature and developers use APIs to interact with underlying system without the need to know how it is implemented. In simple terms the dispute was about should Google use their own API implementation with out paying anything to Oracle or should they pay.


The judgement is as much a big relief for developers as it is for Google. It confirms that the right to build softwares based on standards are to be protected. Had the verdict been other way, it would mean potential law suites against many open source developers who provide own implementations based on standard APIs. Even Linux would have been in trouble because it uses POSIX which has the same API signatures as that of UNIX.


What does the verdict mean for Android ecosystem?


While Google has not yet spoken much about how the verdict will impact the Android plans, we can assume the following.


Continued focus on Kotlin.


Primary focus of Google will be Kotlin, which runs on Java platform. Kotlin is less verbose than Java and comes with complete interoperability with Java. This strategy helps Google to continue attracting the large pool of Java developers to android development.


Java for Android will continue.


With their legal side clear, Google have no restriction to continue investing in Java for Android. This would mean some of the new features in Java could be coming to Android soon. Also Google focusing on Kotlin means they will have to continue supporting Java.


Flutter will be allowed to evolve.


Google's strategy for DART and Flutter is still evolving. As of now any platform specific code need in Flutter apps need to be written in Kotlin, Java or C++. It's safe to assume that Flutter will be more popular among cross-platform developers, and the court verdict will not positively or negatively affect the growth of Flutter.


Conclusion


This verdict has ensured that Java will continue to be very much part of Android native app development in the foreseeable future.


Java is no more a potential liability for Google. It is a valuable asset.