Oracle and IBM are teaming up to save the future of open source Java. It must be good news? Not if you are Google or an Android developer.
It all seems innocent enough and on the face of it good, perhaps even very good, news.
IBM has joined Oracle in agreeing to work together on OpenJDK - Oracle's own open source Java implementation. OpenJDK is essentially Java SE including the JDK and the JRE. The announcement only states that the two companies will work on OpenJDK and not that they won't work on any proprietary projects. It also means that Oracle's view of how Java should develop in the near future is the plan they both back. The reason that IBM has joined Oracle is probably to ensure the stability of the Java environment - something that IBM needs - but it also has a spin off.
There is no doubt that having IBM work with Oracle on OpenJDK is a reassurance, but it also means that IBM will stop work on Harmony the alternative open source Java implementation hosted by the Apache Software Foundation. IBM's contribution to the project is generally regarded as vital. Most of the Harmony code was generated by IBM programmers and its pull out signifies an inevitable slow down in work on Harmony and perhaps even the end of the project. Since 2006 Harmony has been attempting to gain a licence to use a test framework to prove that it is compatible with Java SE. This was refused by Sun and there was no anticipation that this hostile position would change under Oracle.
So by getting IBM onboard Oracle has succeeded in instigating a "reverse fork" which reduces the competition and with it any future threat to its domination of the Java environment. In addition it strikes another blow at Google.
Oracle is currently suing Google for its use of patented Java technology within Android. Google used Harmony as the source of the technology to create Android and so the damage done to Harmony directly impacts the future of Android. Currently Google supports the OpenJDK but if it plans to keep the Android platform moving forward it would do well to switch allegiance to Harmony. Whatever the outcome of the Oracle Google Android lawsuit Oracle has managed to undermine Android in a very effective way.
Unless of course Google manages to make a go of Harmony and provides an alternative to OpenJDK.