In a recent post regarding Oracle’s Java lawsuit against Google I mentioned the Chinese proverb, “May you live in interesting times.” In the tech industry, this lawsuit certainly makes things “interesting!”
One question swirling around this suit is, “What effect will the outcome of this suit have on mobile phone OSs?” Not to sound too conspiratorial, it’s probably valuable to take a “follow the money” approach to this question. Here’s a quick analysis of the platforms and how they may benefit (or not) from this situation.
- Google — Let’s dispense with this quickly. Even on the high end of conspiracy theories, Google really doesn’t have much to gain in this situation. The very existence of the legal battle will have a dramatic impact on the software industry’s investments in Android.
- Apple — The iPhone has been a huge success for Apple, even with its self-imposed support problems. But Steve & Co. know that Android is eating their lunch (Android’s Mobile Web Consumption Share In The US Is Surging, iOS Share Dropping) Oracle and Apple aren’t exactly direct competitors — Oracle is incapable of Apple’s user experience and marketing capabilities, and Apple can’t be bothered with such back-office primitives as databases, ERP, etc. Seems like a great match, right? If Apple and Oracle are in league on this “lawsuit to beat up Google,” how does Oracle benefit? There’s the (potential) Java benefit directly, but that doesn’t require or need Apple. I doubt this is the behind-the-scenes reality, but be on the look-out for some kind of co-marketing campaign.
- Microsoft — It’s pretty clear that Microsoft needs all the help it can get in the mobile space. The Windows Mobile platform has been a laggard for years (which is an eternity in the mobile market). Mobile phone and computing trends indicate that, at best, Windows Mobile whispers “Don’t forget about me. I’m still here!” Apple and Android together are the dominant, uncontested players in the mobile and tablet markets. Is it possible the Microsoft is in league with Oracle in order to put a big dent in the Apple-Android duopoly? Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform was released to production this week and, IMHO, is a Hail-Mary attempt at getting back in the mobile game. In order to become a major contender in the mobility race, Microsoft has to succeed on many fronts, including getting mobile app developers to choose .NET over Java. Raising FUD over Java’s future, licensing, etc. would certainly benefit .NET. But…Oracle and Microsoft would be very strange bedfellows – very!
- IBM — This is the obligatory inclusion of IBM. ‘Nuff said.
- RIM / Blackberry – Really? I’m not going to spend much time on this possibility. It seems to me that RIM’s market share is rapidly dwindling and they really don’t have anything to offer Oracle.
- Symbian — Who? Yes, Symbian is still used by some mobile phones. They have even less to offer Oracle than RIM does.
- Oracle — “What?” you ask. “How could Oracle benefit in the mobile space? They don’t even play in the mobile space.” Right, but that may be the point. Just as Microsoft is trying to re-enter the mobile space, Oracle needs to get in, too. Maybe RIM or Symbian are working with Oracle and plan to take Oracle into the mobile space. “Pretty thin” as Sgt. Murtaugh would say.
- VMWare — Now that we’re in “pretty thin” territory, I’ll bring VMWare into the picture. We already know that it is working on virtualization solutions for mobile devices, and it put its money on Java by acquiring Swing. VMWare made a good strategic move in partnering with Salesforce.com on VForce. Could it be promising Oracle inclusion in its mobile plans in exchange for freedom to use Java + Swing in all arenas?
So, where does that leave us? It seems to me that Apple and Microsoft stand the most to gain in the mobile space by Oracle’s suit against Google. Between the two, Microsoft seems to be a less likely bedfellow in this scenario. But then again, do you remember when Microsoft kept Apple alive in the ’90s?
Hmmm. Interesting times!