Android N to use OpenJDK: Is Google vs. Oracle over?

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Google has committed almost 9,000 files with the open source version of Oracle’s Java Development Kit (JDK), signalling that OpenJDK will be used in the forthcoming Android N release, and that the applicability of copyright to application programming interfaces (APIs) may not be decided by the courts any time soon. A suit filed by Oracle against Google in 2010 alleges that Google violated copyright when it built its proprietary JDK partly using Java APIs.

News of a “mysterious Android codebase commit” was originally posted to Hacker News in November, and a Google spokesperson confirmed the switch to VentureBeat.

“As an open-source platform, Android is built upon the collaboration of the open-source community,” the spokesperson said. “In our upcoming release of Android, we plan to move Android’s Java language libraries to an OpenJDK-based approach, creating a common code base for developers to build apps and services. Google has long worked with and contributed to the OpenJDK community, and we look forward to making even more contributions to the OpenJDK project in the future.”

The release of Java 8, and the inclusion of new language features such as lambdas contributed to the decision, but the representative would not comment on any relation between the code commit and the ongoing legal battle.

As speculated among Hacker News comments, the adoption of OpenJDK may signal an imminent settlement between Google and Oracle. The initial ruling that APIs are not subject to copyright was appealed successfully by Oracle, but Google was left a fair usage argument, which it tried to present to the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court sought the Solicitor General’s advice, and ruled that it could not hear the argument as it said “the courts below have not yet adjudicated (Google’s) fair-use defense.”

Adapting OpenJDK to be its foundation for Java libraries could be part of a move to satisfy licensing requirements as part of an out-of-court settlement, which could leave the matter of API copyright protection to a future dispute. It could also be simply a convenient time for Google to make a move some developers have been asking for anyway.

Oracle recently settled with the FTC over its method of delivering Java vulnerability patches. It also announced positive cloud business results and further investment in cloud and application development technologies earlier this month.

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