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Why Is Java So Important to Android?

Why Is Java So Important to Android?
April 18, 2012 1:29PM

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"Even though Apple does not use Java, a substantial if not the majority of cell phones use Java or Java-like languages, from BlackBerry to Android to Nokia's platform," said Java expert Scott Sellers of the Oracle-Google suit. "Java is significant in mobile because it enables rapid development of applications across the...broadest set of developers."

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In the Oracle vs. Google copyright and patent trial, the search engine giant is doing the only thing it can do: maintain its innocence. Google CEO Larry Page got grilled in a San Francisco courtroom on Wednesday and didn't budge an inch.

There is plenty at stake for Google if it loses, namely $1 billion and an ongoing royalty to Oracle to use the Android operating system. Android powers more than 300 million tablets and smartphones and Google has banked on the technology to help drive its mobile strategy forward.

While Oracle and Google duke it out in court, industry watchers are looking at the value of Java and why Oracle is pushing so hard to defend it. Oracle acquired the Java programming language when it bought Sun in 2010.

Java's Developer Advantage

We asked Scott Sellers, CEO of Silicon Valley-based Azul Systems -- the only company outside Oracle to optimize Java for the enterprise -- his take on the potential impacts the Oracle vs. Google suit could have on Java.

"Even though Apple does not use Java, a substantial if not the majority of cell phones use Java or Java-like languages, from BlackBerry to Android to Nokia's platform," Sellers told us. "Java is significant in mobile because it enables rapid development of applications across the world's broadest set of developers."

Sellers asked a pointed question: Why wouldn't a cell-phone manufacturer want to base their platform on the world's most popular and widely developed language? Since Java is the most secure and robust development environment, he said, developers and operators take comfort in knowing their mobile Java applications will have an exceptional end-user experience.

Google's Java-Like Mindset

Any time a new platform like Android is launched, the key attribute of success is whether enough developers will support the platform to drive "killer apps." Without killer apps, the platform does not thrive. Any analyst will tell you that attracting a variety of developers is critical.

"Java, or in the case of Android a 'Java-like' language, made perfect sense as at the time of its launch there were over 6 million programmers worldwide who were already skilled in developing Java applications. Now there are over 9 million Java developers," Sellers said.

"Since Google chose to base Android on the world's most popular programming language it allowed for a surge in interest as developers were readily able to develop and produce applications for the Android platform," Sellers said. "Without this decision to embrace a 'Java-like' language, Android would been fighting an uphill battle with the development community and likely would have been dead-in-the-water."

Java's Bright Future

With so much controversy surrounding Java, what does the future hold for the language? As Sellers sees it, Java has a bright future, especially in the hands of Oracle. It's still the world's most popular language and it's everywhere, from desktops to laptops to computers to data center servers to mobile devices to TVs and so on.

"Java truly is the foundational 'mortar' across all computing platforms, from thin clients to big enterprise servers. Oracle, in close partnership with the Java Community Process, has laid out an aggressive and compelling roadmap with Java 8 and Java 9 and beyond which will serve to enable Java's continued dominance," Sellers said. "It is now hard to find a next-generation architecture or development initiative within enterprise and developers that does not utilize Java in some way, shape or form."

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