How Will Oracle's Suit Against Google Influence Enterprises?

by Ostatic Staff - Aug. 17, 2010

Now that Oracle's lawsuit against Google regarding parts of the Java code used in the Android OS is widely discussed, many people seem to be waking up to the fact that the implications stretch far beyond the suit itself. We've already made the point that the suit represents a classic example of how maneuvers by a proprietary software company around an open (or in the case of Java, largely open) platform points to problems for all of open source. How, specifically, is the whole open source landscape threatened, though? What do IT administrators think of the whole thing?

Matt Asay, one of the shrewdest open source bloggers ever, and now COO of Canonical, has a very interesting essay about the case up on our sister site GigaOM. He writes:

"There is no Santa Claus. No Easter Bunny. And no such thing as an open-source community separate and distinct from the profit-driven free market that drives software development, generally."

Interestingly, though, he also notes that Google is no saint in the whole dispute. "Google needs to answer Oracle’s specific allegations that it 'knowingly, directly and repeatedly' violated Oracle’s Java-related copyrights and patents." That's true.

Dana Blankenhorn at ZDNet has also weighed in on the topic, and makes the point that it becomes hard for any enterprise--and enterprises are places where open source has been making important inroads--to fully commit to open source applications and platforms when it's obvious that a big, proprietary software company can quickly step in and exert its power and influence. He writes:

"If proprietary companies like Oracle can buy up open source projects and then take back their open source status, how can an enterprise depend on open source software?"

Ask most IT administrators at enterprises why they're wary of open source software, and they'll cite lack of support and documentation, but increasingly they'll probably cite shenanigans like Oracle's. In all likelihood, Google, a company noted for its many contributions to open source, will make clear that what Oracle is doing runs against the whole idea of openness and open source. When news of the Oracle suit originally broke, we made the point that it's very bad PR for Oracle, and that still seems to be the case.