Google’s Android and Sun’s Java

2:38 pm PHT

There are two technology fields that Google has recently entered and will prove to be interesting battle grounds: one is the cross-platform mobile application development space, and the other is the social-networking Web application space. Google entered the former by announcing the Android platform and launching the Open Handset Alliance (OHA), which includes Intel, Motorola, and T-Mobile, and the notable absence of Microsoft, Apple, and Nokia. Google forayed into the latter field by releasing the OpenSocial API with notable partners Friendster, hi5, imeem, MySpace, Six Apart, and LinkedIn, and the notable absence of Facebook.

For this post, I’ll talk about Android. (Warning, geekery ahead!) By itself, Android is a formidable product that is used to create cross-platform applications on mobile devices. This is in direct competition to Microsoft’s Windows Mobile OS, Apple’s iPhone platform, Nokia’s platform, and the Symbian OS.

My range of geekery does not revolve around mobile applications so I’m largely ambivalent towards this development. Besides, I only know introductory Java, and that’s the programming language of choice by far when developing downloadable applications for mobile phones. Android uses the Java programming language and that’s where things get interesting.

Most tech people know that Java was created by Sun Microsystems, so it’s quite intriguing for quite a lot of people that there was no participation of Sun at all in the Android platform or in the Open Handset Alliance. In fact, the preferred IDE (integrated development environment—sort of like MS Word but for computer programming instead of document writing) of OHA is IBM’s Eclipse, not Sun’s NetBeans. The Java code is apparently compiled with Apache’s Harmony standard class library, not Sun’s Java Standard Edition class library. And the resulting compiled code is translated and then run through Google’s own Dalvik virtual machine, not Sun’s GPLv2-released Java SE/ME virtual machines. Furthermore, the underlying OS is Linux-based, not Sun’s Solaris OS.

The whole Android stack will be released under the Apache License, which apparently Sun “avoids like the plague.” Hmmm, does this have something to do with the patent clause of the Apache license?

Well, the technology is interesting, though I probably won’t dabble in it given my lack of time. But the power play between these large companies is what makes these stories extremely intriguing for me.

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