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Sun's worried that Google Android could fracture Java

Company's software chief wants to work with Google to make sure that the Android phone software won't split Java into incompatible versions.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
2 min read

Update: I added comment from Google.

Painful flashbacks are beginning to torment those of us who lived through the Java wars between Sun Microsystems and Microsoft that began 10 years ago.

Earlier this week, Google released programming tools for its Android mobile-phone software project that shun the existing Java standard-setting process in favor of a Google-specific variety. Sun responded on Wednesday by expressing concern that Google's Android project could fragment Java into incompatible versions.

Android SDK

"Anything that creates a more diverse or fractured platform is not in (developers') best interests," said Rich Green, executive vice president of Sun's software work, speaking to reporters at the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco. "The feedback from developers is, 'Help us fix this.'"

He said Sun wants to work with Google to nip any problems in the bud. "We're really interested in working with Google to make sure developers don't end up with a fractured environment. We're reaching out to Google and assuming they'll be reaching out to us to ensure these platforms and APIs will be compatible so deployment on a wide variety of platforms will be possible," Green said.

Google unrepentant
Google didn't adopt a terribly conciliatory tone in its response, arguing that when it comes to Java fragmentation, Android is the solution, not the problem.

"Google and the other members of the Open Handset Alliance are working to help solve fragmentation and supporting the developer community by creating Android, a mobile platform that responds to the needs of the developers, has the backing of industry leaders, and will be available as open source under a nonrestrictive license," Google said in a statement.

And asked whether it would discuss the issue with Sun, Google said, "We're talking with industry leaders around the world about Android and the Open Handset Alliance but we're not commenting on any of those discussions."

On Monday, Google indicated that it expects fellow members of the Open Handset Alliance phones who are working on the Android phones to help keep its variation of Java familiar to programmers.

Java today is governed by the Java Community Process, in which a number of companies vote on which features to accept into the Java system and create standard mechanisms called application programming interfaces (APIs) by which Java software can use those features. The extent to which Android will or must conform to these APIs is not clear.

For those who need a refresher on the Microsoft history here, the software company licensed Java back in the 1990s, way before it became open-source software. However, Microsoft added some features to Java that meant that it could work differently on Windows machines, a move Sun saw as undermining the "write once, run anywhere" promise of the technology.