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Larry Page practices the art of evasion in court

Google's CEO maintained that he was not familiar with senior Android engineer Tim Lindholm, and simply knew of him. Of course, that could depend on what "familiar" and "knew of him" mean.

Larry Page leaves courthouse April 18 after questioning in Oracle-Google trial
Larry Page leaves courthouse April 18, 2012 after questioning in Oracle-Google trial

Larry Page was well-schooled by his legal team. But despite the training, which is essential for any CEO of a major company, the Google chieftain didn't exude comfort in the courtroom as Oracle's lead lawyer, David Boies, questioned him.

He was at times evasive, recalling the exchanges on complex technology issues of Microsoft co-founder and CEO Bill Gates with the same David Boies in the U.S. vs. Microsoft antitrust trial in 1998. For example, Gates stated he didn't know what Boies meant when he used terms such as "concerned," "ask" and "non-Microsoft browser."

Page's biggest evasion of the day was his response to a question from Boies about the importance of Android to Google. He allowed that Android was very important, but qualified his answer, stating, "I wouldn't say it was critical." However, he would not be surprised if Google's board were informed that Android is critical platform for the company. So, it depends on the definition of "critical."

When Page was asked if he could cite an example of a company other than Google that uses Java's APIs but had not signed a licensing agreement with Sun or Oracle, Page stated he "was not an expert" on the matter. True enough, he is not an expert in who has licensed Java APIs, but he probably knows the answer.

Oracle points to this e-mail as evidence Google knew it needed a license to Java for Android. Google maintained that the e-mail was written in the context of Oracle threatening to sue the company. Oracle

Page was also asked about a 2005 e-mail regarding negotiations with Sun for using Java from Tim Lindholm, a Google employee since 2005 who previously spent seven years at Sun as a Distinguish Engineer. It turns out that Lindholm was on the original Java team at Sun, the architect of the Java 2 Micro Edition platform and co-author of the Java Virtual Machine specification. In a 2010 e-mail (above) Lindholm wrote that Google's co-founders asked his team to "investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome."

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Boies asked Page if that "tim" in the 2005 e-mail referred to Tim Lindholm.

Page replied, "I'm not sure which Tim it would be."

Given that Lindholm joined the company in 2005, Larry Page interviewed every new employee and Lindholm was no ordinary engineer and worked on Android as a very senior employee over the last seven years, Page knew which "tim" was "Tim."

Page maintained in his testimony that he was not familiar with Lindholm, and simply knew of him. Google does have a lot of very distinguished engineers working on Android under Andy Rubin, so perhaps he wasn't "familiar" with Lindholm. Of course, that could depend on what "familiar" and "knew of him" mean.

When Lindholm is questioned by Boies on Thursday, when he is expected to testify, perhaps he can shed more light on who was familiar with whom and what, when.