CEO Larry Page: Please Call Larry Ellison
Google has had extraordinary success. The king of search, created a mobile market out of thin air, spins off interesting new technologies as naturally as breathing, and generally are thought of as the apex of geek-success culture.
After ten years at the helm, Eric Schmidt is stepping aside, with co-founder Larry Page moving into the CEO seat. This will prove and interesting time for Google, no doubt.
Also interesting is Google’s current intellectual property death-match with Oracle over Android/Java issues. Feel free to read about this elsewhere.
This leads naturally to what Google really needs to do next.
Oracle does not really seem to interested in Java in and of itself; it’s just another technology that they can make money from. A further concern for Oracle is that Java is current fairly interwoven into their database products; in this sense buying Sun was somewhat of a defensive move.
Why Should Google Buy?
This is actually not just as simple as “Android”. Google was, until the Oracle gang rode into town, a big player in the Java ecosystem. Java is, to some greater or lesser degree, threaded all through Google, from GAE to GWT and so on. As long as Sun was a benevolent dictator Google had large tracts of the Java noosphere to play in. With litigious Oracle around, those lands are much less inviting.
Oh, Oracle would make Google pay. Steeply. But the goodwill Google would realize from such a move would be enormous. Google would be free to re-awaken Apache’s Project Harmony, for example. The Java ecosystem, kinda grinding along at the moment, would positively explode. As a side effect, the Android ecosystem would get another long-term injection of energy.
And Google would be able to cheaply push it onto every platform imaginable, with Android/Chrome/Whatever following. As in Android, Google isn’t after making money on the software, but in accessing the user experience. If Google puts Java everywhere, then it puts Google everywhere.
(Google would also no doubt be a much nicer refugee for loads of former Sun/Java engineers.)
Why Should Oracle Sell?
Well, first off, they could make a potload of money. Always a good thing.
More importantly, they are on a path to drown Java in litigation, arrogance, and uncertainty. I’m sure they are counting on someday reaping a per-handset fee from every Android handset sold, and that’s potentially a lot of money. I’m just as sure that if push comes to shove, Google will clean-sheet an entirely different language and runtime environment and toss Java out the door. There is no future where Google accepts paying a significant royalty to Oracle forever — once they have to pay royalties, they will leave it behind. And they will likely take the Java community with them, severely devaluing Oracle’s investment.
Assuming such a sale, Google would be happy to give Oracle all sorts of cross-licensing agreements regarding their own Java implementations and such. That would give Oracle peace of mind regarding their Java future.
And Oracle too would realize a lot of developer goodwill from such a transaction; the sighs of relief from Java developers around the world would be audible for days.
Put it this way. Oracle cannot lead developers toward a particular technology. Google can’t help but do it. If Oracle makes Java hard, Google will just create something new, and Java will, eventually, wither.
Will Google buy Java? I doubt it. It makes too much sense to ever happen.
But Mr. Page, sir, if you’re listening, here’s an idea: Call Larry Ellison and buy Java it’s freedom.