I’ve fielded a handful of questions from clients and media recently regarding what Saugatuck believes will be the outcome and effects of the Oracle lawsuit against Google regarding the use of Java intellectual property within the Android operating system. More calls have come in now that the jury has found that Google “infringed” to some extent, without agreeing on whether or not Google's use of Java was within legally-protected "fair use" guidelines.

In short, everything Android is up in the air, and some enterprise IT and mobility managers are concerned about what effects this court case may have on their abilities to plan and manage Cloud+mobility in the coming months, along with what to do – if anything.

First of all, Saugatuck is not a law firm and offers no formal legal opinions on any matter. We’re a research consultancy specializing in the business of IT. Our work builds on ongoing research programs to develop market awareness and intelligence that’s used to guide enterprise IT and business leaders and providers of software, hardware, and services in the most effective, efficient ways of doing business.

That said, here is an aggregation of the questions fielded so far today regarding this interesting and intriguing case:

  • “Should we move from Android devices and apps to Apple or Microsoft?”
  • “How much will this court case fragment Android and open source development efforts?”
  • “How will this case affect our mobility strategy?”
  • “What can we do right now to protect our investment in Android-based devices and apps?”

Our net position is there is little or nothing that needs to be done by enterprise IT, business, and mobility leaders at this time or in the foreseeable future. You’re good.   
If history is an accurate and reasonable guide, it will be years before any definitive decision or action results from this trial and subsequent activity. The case has not yet gone to jury as I write this. If and when any verdict is returned, it will be appealed. The appeals process in cases like this historically takes between three and 10 years. While the jury is deliberating, both sides will work toward a settlement. If no settlement is reached before a verdict is returned, then the two sides will continue to work toward one throughout the appeals process.

Given that mobile technologies and markets have a very high innovation and adoption rate, it is entirely possible that new or different technologies will be in use by the time this case is concluded. The importance and role, or even presence, of Java may be a moot point.

Whether the case reaches a negotiated settlement or a final court verdict, the most likely impact by far will be increased software licensing fees up and down the ecosystem stack.

Oracle brought this suit to protect what it sees as its IP, and to gain licensing revenue. Oracle does not benefit by putting Google or Android out of business; there are too many millions of developers and tens of millions of users available to generate revenue for Oracle to do that.

Therefore, the most likely net impact on enterprises will be slightly increased costs of software, devices, and services. We can see no reasonable scenario wherein Android and/or Google suddenly disappear as a result of this case, negating years of standardization and integration effort by enterprises. So we see this case causing no reason for enterprises to reconsider or change their mobility plans and strategies.

Even if the Android OS and its ecosystem were to be disrupted significantly, and therefore cause significant disruption to user enterprises that rely on them, the gradual current shift toward Cloud-based integration-as-a-service will negate or ameliorate the most significant technological problems.  And even so, the OS on the device is already fast becoming less important than the ability of the device to access Cloud-based services. Android certainly enables a vast range of device and software capabilities, but as the “age of the app” winds down in the coming few years and we rely more on Cloud-based, browser-enabled functionality for business, much of the device and developer impacts fade away.

Saugatuck’s net position for IT, business and mobility leaders: You’re OK as long as you review and update your standards, and stay current on the status and capabilities of Cloud-based IT-as-a-service from the mobile device level through enterprise business management suites.

This blog originally appeared at Saugatuck Lens360.

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